Just as Intel's Core 2 Duo smashed all before it, the Core i7 arrived at the tail end of 2008 packing a level of performance AMD still can't match.
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The now-defunct Core i7-965 Extreme blew our benchmarks away, before the range extended in both directions to comprise the five models on sale today.Requiring an expensive Socket LGA 1366 motherboard, these quad-core parts range from the 2.66GHz i7-920 to the new 3.2GHz i7-960 - as well as the top-end Extreme part, the multiplier-unlocked 3.33GHz Core i7-975.The i7 re-introduced Hyper-Threading - a standard feature of Pentium 4 processors, but absent from the Core series. They offer 8MB of shared cache, a 4.8GT/sec QPI bandwidth (6.4GT/sec for the Extreme) and a whopping 130W TDP. All support virtualisation, and they also make use of Intel's Turbo Boost system: idle cores are automatically clocked down, and the power saved is used to dynamically overclock busier cores. It means the CPU remains efficient for multithreaded tasks, while giving single-threaded applications a significant speed boost (see page 67 for Turbo Boost frequencies).The Core i7 CPUs are undeniably fast - the i7-975 Extreme scored a huge 2.19 - but the issue is price. The i7-920 will set you back $352 for a score of 1.86, and that's before you add the cost of a motherboard. AMD's top models are far more affordable, and Intel's own Core i5-750 (see page 66) offers much that these chips do at a far more attractive price. You'd have to be feeling pretty flush to take the plunge on an LGA 1366 part at this early stage.
This Review appeared in the April, 2010 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
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