It’s been made public that Intel plans on releasing their next-generation microarchitecture, the Nehalmen-based Core i7 line, on November 17th. Core i7 is said to represent the largest structural changes to Intel’s line of x86 processors since 1995’s Pentium Pro line of CPUs. In this generation, we see Intel move the memory controller on-die, following in the footsteps of AMD which made the transition several years ago.
Rumors and preliminary reviews of preproduction units peg performance improvements as being in the double digits over the current Core 2 line of microprocessors, making it an exciting release indeed.
The Nehalem line of chips represents a ‘tock’ generation in the chipmaker’s overall product release strategy. Intel follows what they call a ‘tick-tock’ method of chip fabrication and release. A ‘tick’ release is a shrinking of the process technology used in the previous generation’s manufacture while a ‘tock’ release represents an entirely new microarchitecture. This means that as Nehalem is a new chip design on a 45nm fabrication process, we can expect Intel to release the ‘tick’, or shrink, late next year in the form of the ‘Westmere’ core, which is slated to be made on a 32nm process. ‘Sandy Bridge’ is expected to be brought out sometime in 2010 as a new microarchitecture on the 32nm process, so on and so on, ad infinitum.
Don’t expect to run out and get the new Core i7 chips on release day, however, unless you’re planning on spending a pretty penny: Intel is releasing their higher-end chips first, with three desktop CPUs coming out on the 17th. All will be quad core chips (with 8 threads, as Nehalem brings HyperThreading back to Intel’s desktop x86 processors) The Core i7 920 will be clocked at 2.66GHz and run $284, the 940 will be clocked at 2.93GHz and cost $562, and the 965 Extreme Edition will be clocked at 3.2GHz and run $999. Overclocking will be possible on all 900-series chips when used in conjunction with the upcoming X58 chipset. All three chips have an expected TDP of 130 Watts and require use of the LGA1366 socket.