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Intel Core i5, Core i7 800 Processors and P55 Express
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Date: Sep 07, 2009
Section:Processors
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction, Specifications, Related Links

With today's launch of their new "Lynnfield" based Core i5 and i7 800 series processors, and the accompanying P55 Express chipset, Intel's current flagship CPU microarchitecture--codenamed Nehalem--finally trickles its way down into the mainstream computing segment. Since Nehalem first landed on the desktop in the form of the Core i7 line of processors, it has unequivocally owned the performance segment of the market.  They are simply the fastest desktop processors currently available, bar none. But while the Core i7 was riding high, Intel still had the established Core 2 line-up to satisfy the mainstream, though meeting market demand for a refresh here as well was obviously the end game.

Along with the new Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors and P55 Express chipset, also come a plethora of new features and changes. While the Core i5 and i7 800 series processors are based on Nehalem and share similar execution cores, with these new processors, Intel has changed the integrated memory controller configuration, brought PCI Express connectivity on-die, and revamped their Turbo Mode functionality to offer varying levels of increased performance depending on the type of application being used. These new processors also require a new socket, new coolers, and the P55 Express chipset--which is an elegant single-chip solution.

There's a lot of information to cover to fill you all in on the pertinent details regarding the Core i5 and i7 800 series processors and P55 Express chipset. So we'll dive right in. First up we have some specifications on tap, and then we'll follow up with architectural and platform details, and a full performance breakdown using a trio of P55-based motherboards. Lots to see; let's get to it...



Intel Core i5 Processor On The Intel DP55KG "Kingsberg" Motherboard

Intel Core i5 and i7 7 Processors
Specifications & Features

  • Core Frequencies:
     2.93GHz (i7 870), 2.8GHz (i7 860), 2.66GHz (i5 750) 
  • DMI Speed - 2GB/s
  • TDP (Thermal Design Power) - 95W
  • Stepping - 5
  • Number of CPU Cores - 4 (8 Threads w/ i7)
  • Intel SmarCache- 8MB
  • L2 Cache - 1MB (256K x 4)
  • Processor input voltage (VID) - .88-1.2v
  • .045-micron manufacturing process
  • Shared Smart Cache Technology
  • PECI Enabled
  • Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST)
  • Extended HALT State (C1E) Enabled
  • Execute Disable Bit (XD) Enabled
  • Intel 64 Technology

 

  • Intel Virtualization Technology (VT)
  • Packaging -  Flip Chip LGA1156
  • Total Die Size: Approximately 296mm2
  • Approximately 774M Transistors
  • MSRP - $555 (i7 870), $285 (i7 860), $199 (i5 750)

     


    45nm Lynnfield Quad-Core Wafer


    Details regarding Lynnfield and the P55 chipset haven't exactly been well guarded secrets these past few months. In fact, we've already posted a number of articles related to both, in which we cover many of the main features and specifications. We have obviously written about Nehalem in depth in our coverage of the original Core i7 launch. But we've also posted information on overclocking Nehalem, and have offered up a number of P55-based motherboard sneak peeks as well...

    We're going to summarize many of the main details again here, but if you'd like to check out our complete coverage of the Core i7 (Nehalem) and the X58 Express chipset, the list of articles above offers just about all there is to know.
     

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    Core i5 and i7 Processor Details

    One of the major changes brought forth with Intel's new Core i5 and i7 800 series processors is their packaging. These new processors are configured with 1156 contact pads on their underside, as opposed to the 1366 pads used on the original Core i7 processors.

      
    Intel Core i5 750 Processor, LGA1156 Packaging

    The changes made to the Core i5 and i7 800 series processors' packaging were necessitated by the integration of PCI Express connectivity, the dual-channel memory controller configuration, and enhancements / changes made to the chip's power delivery configuration. Due to the fact that these new processors use different packaging, a new socket is also necessary of course. More on that a little later.

    The Core i5 chip pictured above looks nearly identical to a Core i7 800 series chip. In fact, the two processor lines differ only in their support for HyperThreading--the Core i7 800 series supports HT, the Core i5 does not. The processors are outfitted with integrated heat spreaders and have a number of surface mounted components on their undersides. There are also a number of contact pads on the top side of the chips.


    Lynnfield Die Map

    Underneath the heat spreader lies a native, quad-core CPU design, manufactured using Intel's 45nm process. The image above is a map of a Lynnfield die; it details the positions of each of the processor's major functional blocks. As you can see, the quad-execution cores are situated about in the center of the die, sandwiched between the new dual-channel DDR3 memory controller and 8MB of shared L3 cache. Miscellaneous I/O resides on the left and 16 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 are on the right. The integration of the memory controller and PCI Express lanes on the chip, essentially eliminated the need for a northbridge, like previous Intel chipsets. Hence, the single-chip P55 Express was born.

    As we've already mentioned, Lynnfield is based on the Nehalem microarchitecture. But the changes introduced with Lynnfield make it quite different from the first batch of Core i7s. The changes made with Lynnfield culminate in a product that Intel claims is 20% faster than the previous generation Core 2 processor series, while also offering ~50% lower idle power consumption, and because the accompanying P55 Express chipset is a single chip design, there is a 40% total package size reduction (CPU + Chipset).


    Core i5 and i7 800 Series Turbo Mode Illustration

    Aside from the integration of on-die PCI Express connectivity, perhaps the most significant change made with Lynnfield in is regard to its Intel Turbo Mode functionality. With the original Core i7s, Turbo Mode allowed the chips to operate at one or two speed-bins above their "stock" frequencies, thermal and power envelopes permitting. With the new Lynnfield-based Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors, however, Turbo Mode is much more flexible, and powerful.

    With Lynnfield-based processors, Turbo Mode allows the chips to operate at up to 5 speed bins above stock. As long as the processors are running within specified thermal and power limits, when a single-threaded workload is detected, the clock speed on a single execution core will be increased up to 5 speed bins. When a lightly threaded workload is detected, frequencies will be increased up to 4 speed bins. And with a highly threaded workload, frequencies will increase 1-2 speed bins. As a result, the Core i7 870 will hit speeds up to 3.6GHz, the i7 860 up to 3.46GHz, and Core i5 750 up to 3.2GHz.
     

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    Vital Signs and Overclocking

    For the purposes of this article, we obtained Core i5 750 and Core i7 870 processors. To get a glimpse of their inner-workings, we first fired up the latest version of CPU-Z and snapped a few images of the pertinent details.

        
    Core i5 750 CPU-Z Processor Details


        
    Core i7 870 CPU-Z Processor Details

    Although the chips are quite similar, there are two major differences to point out. First, obviously, are their clock speeds. The Core i5 750's default clock speed is 2.66GHz, the Core i7 870's is 2.93GHz and both chips clock down to about 1.2GHz while idling to save power. The Core i7 750's default clock speed is a result of its stock 20x multiplier and 133MHz base clock frequency (20 x 133MHz = 2.66GHz). The Core i7 870's default clock speed is 2.93GHz, which is a result of its 22x multiplier and similar 133MHz base clock. The second image in each series above, however, shows each chip under a threaded workload, which results in higher frequencies. With Turbo Mode enabled, the Core i5 750 hums along at 2.8GHz, while the i7 870 is at 3.2GHz.

    The second major difference is that the Core i7 800 series support Intel's HyperThreading technology, which allows each execution core to processor two-threads simultaneously. As a result, CPU-Z correctly reports that the Core i7 870 and i5 750 feature 4 cores, but that the higher-end i7 870 can process 8 threads, while the Core i5 750 is limited to 4.

    Cache configurations on the processors are the same, with 4 x 32K, 8-way associative L1 data caches, 4 x 32K, 4-way associative L1 instruction caches, 4 x 256K 8-way associative L2 caches, and 8MB of 16-way associative L3 caches.

    Overclocking The Core i5 and i7
    Pedal To The Metal


    Core i5 750 Overclocked To 3.9GHz


    Core i7 870 Overclocked To 3.9GHz

    We also set out to do a bit of overclocking with the new Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors, and came away very impressed. We should point out that there are no "Extreme Edition" Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors, hence they are all multiplier locked for higher values and cannot be manually manipulated upwards to increase clock speeds. The only way to manually increase their frequencies is to increase the base clock speed, which by default runs at 133MHz.

    To overclock the Core i5 750 and Core i7 870, we used the stock Intel cooler and a Gigabyte P55-UD6 motherboard. We first increased each processor's voltage to 1.4v and then increased the base clock frequency until our test system was no longer stable. Turbo mode was disabled to prevent any unwanted frequency spikes, but we left HyperThreading enabled on the i7 870. In the end, both chips easily handled 3.9GHz, with the stock cooler.

    At 3.9GHz, the chips idled at around 45'C and peaked at over 70'C under load, but they were completely stable. We were also able to boot into Windows at speeds of up to 4.1GHz, but no amount of tweaking with the stock cooler would keep the system stable. With more exotic cooling, however, we suspect stable 4GHz overclocks will be somewhat commonplace with these new chips.
     

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    The Intel P55 Express Chipset

    As we have already mentioned on a few occasions, to compliment the new Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors, Intel is also introducing the P55 Express chipset. The P55 Express is somewhat different than any other Intel chipset released to date. It is, however, also very similar...  Let us explain.

    Because the Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors feature integrated memory controllers and 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes, virtually all of the functionality previously integrated into a northbridge is now on the CPU die. As such, the P55 Express is essentially a southbridge chip, linked directly to the processor.

    As the above block diagram shows, the P55 chipset links to the processor via a 2GB/s interface. The memory and graphics card(s) connect directly to the CPU. The P55 Express itself features 14 USB 2.0 ports, an additional 8 lanes of PCE Express Gen 1 connectivity, and integrated GigE MAC, HD audio, and 6 SATA ports.



        

       
    Intel DP55KG Kingsberg Motherboard

    Of course, Intel is at the ready with a few motherboards to exploit all the P55 Express has to offer. The board pictured here is the Extreme Series DP55KG Kingsberg Motherboard. It is, of course, based on the P55 Express chipset and offers support for up to four DIMMs, and SLI and CrossFire multi-GPU support. We should note that the 16 PCI Express lanes integrated into the CPU are flexible, and can be configured for operating in 1 x 16 and 2 x 8 lane configurations. As such, the DP55KG features dual PEG slots, although one is a notched x8 slot, with a full length retention bracket.

    The DP55KG is built on a dark colored PCB, but blue and white accents. Generally speaking, the layout of the board is good and there are no major components that impinge on any others. The VRM on the board is treated to an array of blue, aluminum heatsinks, and the P55 itself gets its own heatsink as well. While the heatsink on the chipset may appear small, especially in comparison to the boards we'll show you next, we should note that even with this relatively miniscule heatsink, the chipset got just warm to the touch, even after hours of testing.

    If you look at the various shots of the DP55KG above, you'll see that it is legacy free, and devoid and any IDE, floppy, or PS/2 connectors. Its backplane is home to an assortment of USB, eSATA, Firewire, audio, and Ethernet jacks, and there is also an integrated Bluetooth transceiver on the board. The DP55KG also sports an LED POST code error reported, and because it is an Extreme Edition board, it has a full complement of overclocking and performance tuning options available, not only via the system BIOS, but via Intel's Desktop Control Center software as well.
     

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    P55 Motherboards: Gigabyte, Asus, EVGA

    First up we have Gigabyte's flagship P55-UD6. The P55-UD6 built around Gigabyte's signature blue PCB, and it features seven expansion slots (3 x PEG, 2 x PCIe x1, 2 x PCI), and large, aluminum heatinks on the VRM and chipset. If you look close at the heatsinks though, you'll notice that the one about in the middle of the board--in the traditional northbridge location--isn't really mounted to anything. It's sort of just floating there, connected to the VRM heatsinks via a heatpipe. This is due to the fact that, as we've mentioned already, Lynnfield based processes move virtually all of the legacy northbridge functionality, including PCI Express connectivity and a memory controller, onto the CPU die itself, so there's no need for a true northbridge chip.



        

        
    Gigabyte P55-UD6 Motherboard


    The board's trio of PEG slots support SLI and CrossFire multi-GPU configurations and there's also plenty of connectivity in the I/O backplane--Gigabit LAN and HD Audio support come by way of Realtek chips and the Firewire ports are powered by a TI controller. The P55-UD6 is also outfitted with 10 SATA ports, 6 DIMM slots, which is currently a rarity with P55-based motherboards--although it is still dual-channel, a POST code error reporter, dual-Gigabit LAN, and a host of other features.

    The Gigabyte P55-UD6's main claim to fame, however, is its 24 phase power design. If you look around the CPU socket you can plainly see the 24 phase design and count the components for yourself. In fact, you'll count 27 phases, but three of them are dedicated to the memory slots. The P55-UD6 is also a member of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 family of products, which means it sports 2oz copper layers in its PCB, solid Japanese capacitors, Lower Rds MOSFETs, and Ferrite core chokes.

    This is the motherboard we used for our overclocking tests, and we also feature a full set of benchmarks using this board later in this article. Overall, we definitely give it a thumbs up. As you'll see, performance was excellent and it found it to be very stable and overclockable too.





        

        
    Asus Maximus III Formula

    Like the Intel board pictured on the previous page, the Asus Maximus III Formula is built around a dark colored PCB, but with red, white, and black accents. It has four DDR3 DIMM slots for dual-channel memory configurations, and each slot has an interesting retention clip configuration. If you look close, you'll see that the retention clips closest to the expansion slots are much smaller than those on the opposite side. That's to prevent the clips from interfering with long graphics cards or the two nearby SATA ports.

    Six more SATA ports are mounted horizontally behind the P55 chipset heatsink, which is comprised of a relatively large aluminum block with numerous fins. Although this heatsink isn't linked to any others via heat-pipes, the P55 chipset doesn't generate much heat at all, so this simple heatsink should be more than sufficient. Two more SATA ports rest along the bottom edge.

    The expansion slots consist of three PCI Express x16 slots--with SLI and CrossFire support--two x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. One of the x1 slots is crammed right in front of the heatsink adorned with the RoG badge, so it may be unusable with some expansion cards. Notice the PEG slots have extra-large retention clips, that should make it easy to remove cards.

    The layout of the board is typical of a RoG series product, and the I/O backplane is loaded with the usual suspects. One new feature making an appearance here, however, is dubbed RoG Connect. The RoG Connect port in the backplane will allow users to connect the board to a second system (like a notebook) for real-time hardware monitoring and tweaking.




        

        
    EVGA P55 SLI Motherboard

    EVGA also chimed in with one of their P55 SLI motherboards. As its name suggests, the board obviously supports SLI (and CrossFire). But another interesting feature has to do with its CPU cooler retention holes. The EVGA P55 SLI is outfitted with CPU heatsink mounting holes that are compatible with both legacy socket 775 and new socket 1156 heatsinks, which could save upgraders some money.

    Additional features of the EVGA P55 SLI include Low Inductance Ceramic Capacitors in the CPU cavity, dual clock generators for the CPU and PCIe interface, to ensure clean signals while overclocking, and a POST code error reporter. Relatively large aluminum heatsinks reside on the VRM and chipset.  On-board power, reset, and clear CMOS switches  are situated along the bottom edge of the board.

    We did not have time to put the EVGA P55 SLI through its paces in time for this article, but we will be rounding up a number of P55-based motherboards in the not too distant future. So stay tuned for the full scoop.
     

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    Socket 1156 Compatible Coolers

    Intel's socket 1156 specifications call for CPU heatsink mounting holes that are 3mm closer than the original Core i7's, we're told to minimize the amount of flex in the motherboard when the heatsink is mounted. As such, a new stock heatsink was required and third-party manufactures will have to either introduce new socket 1156 compatible heatsinks or new retention mechanisms for current heatsink designs.

     
     

    Stock Intel Core i5 Socket 1156 Cooler

    The stock Intel Core i5 heatsink is pictured above. Aside from being very quiet, what's most impressive about this cooler is its size--the thing is downright tiny. The heatsink fins are barely and inch high, and the entire cooler is a fraction of the height of many aftermarket coolers. It mounts using Intel's traditional push-pins and features a PWM fan.



      
    Thermalright MUX-120 Socket 1156 Cooler

    We also obtained a Thermalright MUX-120 heatsink to accompany our Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors. The MUX-120 is virtually identical to the older Ultra-120 eXtreme RT for socket 1366 processors, but the MUZ-120 ships with a new retention clip that is compatible with socket 1156.

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    Core i5 & i7 Targeted Memory Kits

    Like Intel's motherboard and CPU cooler partners, memory manufacturers are also at the ready with Lynnfield-ready memory kits targeted for the new platform. We've got a few of them to show you here.

      
    Kingston KHX1600C8D3K2/4GX Memory Kit

    First up, we have some shots of Kingston's HyperX KHX1600C8D3K2/4GX kit. As its name implies, the KHX1600C8D3K2/4GX kit consists of a pair of 2GB (4GB total), DDR3-1600 DIMMs, with CAS 8 timings. This is the memory kit we used throughout our testing, and we found it to be high-performance and hassle free.


      
    OCZ Platinum Series 3P1866LV4GK Memory Kit

    OCZ came through with another 4GB kit (2GB x 2), but this one is rated for operation at up to 1866MHz, with CAS 9 timings, at only 1.65v. The OCZ Platinum Series 3P1866LV4GK kit is shown here, which feature the company's, perforated honeycombed heat spreader design.


    Corsair Dominator CMD8GX3M4A1600C8 Memory

    Corsair took things a step further and sent over an 8GB memory kit (2GB x 4) designed for Lynnfield-based systems. The Corsair Dominator CMD8GX3M4A1600C8 DIMMs pictured above feature 8-8-8-24 timings, and are rated for operation at DDR3-1600 speeds at 1.65v. The kit also includes a Dominator cooling fan, for users who prefer to actively cool their memory.

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    Test Systems and SiSoft SANDRA

    Test System Configuration Notes: When configuring our test systems for this article, we first entered their respective system BIOSes and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High performance Defaults". We then saved the settings, re-entered the BIOS and set memory timings for either DDR3-1333 with 8,8,8,24 timings. The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we updated the OS, and installed the drivers necessary for our components. Auto-Updating and Windows Defender were then disabled and we installed all of our benchmarking software, performed a disk clean-up, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.

     HotHardware's Test Systems
     Intel and AMD - Head To Head
    System 1:
    Core i7 870
    (2.93GHz - Quad-Core)
    Core i5 750
    (2.66GHz - Quad-Core)

    Intel DP55KB
    Asus Maximus III Formula
    Gigabyte P55-UD6
    (P55 Express Chipset) 

    2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1600
    (@ 1333MHz, CAS 8)

    GeForce GTX 280
    On-Board Ethernet
    On-board Audio

    WD150 "Raptor" HD
    10,000 RPM SATA

    Windows 7 x64 
    NVIDIA Forceware v190.62
    System 2:
    Core i7 Extreme 975
    (3.33GHz - Quad-Core)
    Core i7 920
    (2.66GHz - Quad-Core)

    Gigabyte EX58-UD5
    (X58 Express Chipset)

    3x2GB OCZ DDR3-1333
    (@ 1333MHz, CAS 8)

    GeForce GTX 280
    On-Board Ethernet
    On-board Audio

    WD150 "Raptor" HD
    10,000 RPM SATA 

    Windows 7 x64 
    NVIDIA Forceware v190.62
    System 3:
    Core 2 Q9650
    (3GHz - Quad-Core)
    Core 2 Quad Q9400
    (2.66GHz - Quad-Core)

    Gigabyte X48T-DQ6
    (X48 Express Chipset)

    2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1600
    (@ 1333MHz, CAS 8)

    GeForce GTX 280
    On-Board Ethernet
    On-board Audio

    WD150 "Raptor" HD
    10,000 RPM SATA 

    Windows 7 x64 
    NVIDIA Forceware v190.62
    System 4:
    AMD Phenom II X4 965
    (3.4GHz Quad-Core)

    Asus M4A79T Deluxe
    (AMD 790FX Chipset) 

    2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1600
    (@ 1333MHz, CAS 8)


    GeForce GTX 280
    On-Board Ethernet
    On-board Audio

    WD150 "Raptor" HD
    10,000 RPM SATA 

    Windows 7 x64 
    NVIDIA Forceware v190.62

     Preliminary Testing with SiSoft SANDRA 2009 SP4
     Synthetic Benchmarks


    We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2009 SP4, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2009 SP4 suite with Intel's new Core i5 and i7 800 series processors (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth, and Cache and Memory).  All of the scores reported below were taken with the processors running at its default clock speeds of 2.93GHz and 2.66GHz with 4GB of DDR3-1333 RAM running in dual-channel mode on the Gigabyte P55-UD6 motherboard.


    Processor Arithmetic
    Core i5 750


    Multimedia
    Core i5 750


     Memory Bandwidth
    Core i5 750


    Cache and Memory
    Core i5 750




    Processor Arithmetic
    Core i7 870





    Multimedia
    Core i7 870




    Memory Bandwidth
    Core i7 870




    Cache and Memory
    Core i7 870

    The Core i7 870 puts up much stronger scores than the i5 750 in the SiSoft SANDRA CPU Arithmetic and Multimedia benchmarks, not only because the chip is clocked higher by default, but because it supports HyperThreading as well, which allows the chip to process 8 threads simultaneously, as opposed to 4 on the Core i5. Despite the fact that both processors were equipped with the same memory, the Core i7 860 also offered more memory bandwidth 16.8GB/s (Core i5) vs. 17.3GB/s (Core i7).

    In light of competing platforms in SANDRA's database, Intel's new mainstream chips perform very well, besting the previous generation and anything from AMD.
     

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    Futuremark PCMark Vantage

    Next up, we ran a number of different test systems through Futuremark‚Äôs latest system performance metric built especially for Windows Vista, PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity.  Most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, so the tests can exploit the additional resources offered by a quad-core CPU.

    Futuremark PCMark Vantage
    Simulated Application Performance


    From this point forward, we have a number of different data points available for your perusal. Not only did we put the new Core i7 870 and Core i5 750 through an extensive battery of benchmark tests, but we did the same with Socket 1366 and Socket 775 platforms, with similarly clocked chips, and also tossed in AMD's current flagship Phenom II X4 965 for good measure. We also tested a trio of P55 based motherboards from Intel, Asus, and Gigabyte, for reference purposes.

    As you can see, the Core i7 870 handily outperforms the Core 2 offerings as well as the Core i7 920. The Core i5 750 also performs very well, trouncing the more expensive Phenom II X4 965 in some of the PCMark Vantage tests, and losing in others.

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    LAME MT and x264 Encoding

    In our custom LAME MT MP3 encoding test, we convert a large WAV file to the MP3 format, which is a popular scenario that many end users work with on a day-to-day basis to provide portability and storage of their digital audio content.  LAME is an open-source mid to high bit-rate and VBR (variable bit rate) MP3 audio encoder that is used widely around the world in a multitude of third party applications.

    LAME MT
    Audio Encoding

    In this test, we created our own 223MB WAV file (a hallucinogenically-induced Grateful Dead jam) and converted it to the MP3 format using the multi-thread capable LAME MT application in single and multi-thread modes. Processing times are recorded below, listed in seconds. Shorter times equate to better performance.

       

    The new Core i5 750 and Core i7 870 processors performed very well in our custom LAME MT benchmark. Intel's new mainstream processors were able to best all of the other chips we tested, save for the ultra-high-end Core i7 965.

    x264 Video Encoding Benchmark
    H.264 HD Video Encoding

    The x264 benchmark measures how fast a system can encode a short, DVD quality MPEG-2 video clip into a high-quality H.264 HD video clip. The application reports the compression results in frames per second for each pass of the video encoding process, and it is threaded so it can take advantage of the additional resources afforded by multi-core processors.

    The Core i5 750's performance in the x264 benchmark falls somewhere in between the Core 2 Q9650 and Core i7 920, and about on par with the Phenom II--give or take a couple of FPS depending on the pass. The new Core i7 870, however, outpaces everything with the exception of the Core i7 975.

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    Cinebench R10 and POV-Ray

    Cinebench R10 is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by 3D animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others.  It's very demanding of system processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput.

    Cinebench R10
    3D Rendering

    This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The rate at which each test system was able to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below.

     

    The new Core i7 870 was once again the fastest of the bunch in the Cinebench tests, save for the Core i7 975 of course. The Core i5 750 also performed well, besting the Phenom II and Core 2 Q9650. The Core i5 750 was also able to pull ahead of the Core i7 920 in the single-threaded test, thanks to its higher frequency, as a result of its superior Turbo Mode functionality.

    POV-Ray Performance
    Ray Tracing

    POV-Ray , or the Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer, is a top-notch open source tool for creating realistically lit 3D graphics artwork. We tested with POV-Ray's standard 'all-CPU' benchmarking tool on all of our test machines, and recorded the scores reported for each. Results are measured in pixels-per-second throughput; higher scores equate to better performance.

    Our results with the POV-Ray benchmark essentially mirror those of Cinebench above. In this test, however, the Core i5 750 trails the Phenom II in both the single and multi-threaded tests. Finally, the Core i7 870 once again outruns everything except for Intel's flagship Core i7 975.

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    3DMark06 and Vantage CPU Tests

    3DMark06's built-in CPU test is a multi-threaded DirectX gaming metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are processed with a software renderer that is dependent on the host CPU's performance.  Calculations that are normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the CPU for processing and rendering.  The frame-rate generated in each test is used to determine the final score.

    Futuremark 3DMark06
    Synthetic DirectX Gaming

     

    We saw more of the same with 3DMark06's built-in CPU benchmark. Here, the Core i7 870 pull ahead of everything but i7 975 and the Core i5 750 lands somewhere in between the Core i7 920 and Core 2 Q9650, just behind the Phenom II X4 965.

    Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
    Synthetic DirectX Gaming

    3DMark Vantage's CPU Test 2 is a multi-threaded test designed for comparing relative game physics processing performance between systems.  This test consists of a single scene that features an air race of sorts, with a complex configuration of gates. There are aircraft in the test that trail smoke and collide with various cloth and soft-body obstacles, each other, and the ground. The smoke spreads, and reacts to the planes as they pass through it as well and all of this is calculated on the host CPU. 

     

    3DMark Vantage's CPU Test 2 tests basically the same story as 3DMark06, except for the fact that the Core i5 750 comes in behind the Core 2 Q9650 as well as the Phenom II in this test.

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    WinRAR Compression and Image Processing

    In our custom WinRAR x64 benchmark, we take a directory loaded with two hundred, 12.1 megapixel image files and compress them into a single archive using the default WinRAR compression scheme. The length of time it took each system to save the completed archive is represented in the graph below.

    WinRAR x64 v3.9 Benchmark
    Multi-Threaded File Compression Performance

    The new Core i7 870 and Core i5 750 outpaced the Core 2 Quad and Phenom II-based systems in our WinRAR benchmark, but the socket 1366 Core i7s finished out in front, for the most part. The Core i7 870 was actually able to pull ahead of the Core i7 920 when installed in Gigabyte's P55-UD6.

    VSO Image Resizer
    Batch Image Processing

    For this next test, we use the VSO Image Resizer utility to convert two hundred, 12.1 megapixel image files copied directly from a digital SLR camera to compressed, 640x480 JPGs, suitable for the web. We used the Lanczos filtering method available within the application, which is slower, but offers higher quality than most other methods.

    The performance trend reported by the VSO Image Resizer benchmark looks much like WinRAR's above. The new Core i7 870 finishes near the top, trailing only the Core i7 975 and the Core i5 750 falls in line between the Core 2 Q9650 and Core i7 920.

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    Low-Res Gaming: Crysis and ETQW

    For our next set of tests, we moved on to some in-game benchmarking with Crysis and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. When testing processors with Crysis or ET:QW, we drop the resolution to 800x600, and reduce all of the in-game graphical options to their minimum values to isolate CPU and memory performance as much as possible.  However, the in-game effects, which control the level of detail for the games' physics engines and particle systems, are left at their maximum values, since these actually do place some load on the CPU rather than GPU.

    Low-Resolution Gaming: Crysis and ET: Quake Wars
    Taking the GPU out of the Equation




    The story we have told up to this point, remains largely unchanged. In our low-resolution game tests, the new Core i7 870 outperforms everything but the Core i7 975. The Core i5 750 also performs quite well, besting the legacy Core 2 platform and AMD's current flagship Phenom II X4 965 by sizable margins.

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    Hi-Res Gaming Multi-GPU Tests

    For our next set of tests, we moved on to some high-resolution graphics benchmarking with 3DMark Vantage, ET:QW, and Left 4 Dead. For these tests, we've tested a Core i7 870 powered system outfitted with single, or dual GeForce GTX 275 (SLI) or Radeon HD 4890 (CrossFire) graphics cards. Due to the fact that these new Core i5 and i7 800 series processors feature integrated PCI Express lanes, and the graphics cards essentially connect directly to the CPU, we wanted to see how graphics performance and multi-GPU scaling were affected in more GPU bound circumstances.

    High-Resolution Gaming: 3DMark Vantage
    Taxing the Whole Rig




    Both the GeForce GTX 275s and Radeon HD 4890s showed solid performance on the Core i7 870 / P55 Express platform, and scaled properly when switching from single to dual-card configurations. The GeForces held a sizable lead here, thanks in no small part to their support for PhysX, which is used in this benchmark.

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    Hi-Res Gaming Multi-GPU Tests (Cont.)

    Next we moved on to some more high-resolution graphics benchmarking with ET:QW and Left 4 Dead, using the same Core i7 870 / P55 Express based system and NVIDIA and ATI-based graphics cards.

    High-Resolution Gaming: Left 4 Dead and ET:QW
    Taxing the Whole Rig





    In our two actual, in-game tests, the GeForce GTX 275 and Radeon HD 4890 configurations, whether running with single or dual cards, performed surprisingly similar on our Core i7 870 powered test bed. In these two tests, both the NVIDIA and ATI-built GPUs performed well and scaled properly in the multi-GPU SLI or CrossFire configurations, but Left 4 Dead was definitely more CPU bound, as is evident by the marginal performance increase moving from one to two GPUs.

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    Power Consumption

    We'd like to cover a few final data points before bringing this article to a close. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems consumed using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the processors alone.

    Total System Power Consumption
    Tested at the Outlet


    Intel claimed vastly superior idle power consumption characteristics with Lynnfield, which we were able to prove out in our testing. Both the Core i5 750 and Core i7 870 offered significantly lower power consumption while idling than all of the other platforms we tested. Under load, power consumption was somewhat higher than the Core 2 / X48 combo, but keep in mind, these new chips typically offer superior performance than the Core 2, which bodes well in terms of their overall power efficiency.

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    Performance Summary and Conclusion

    Performance Summary: We have a number of different performance comparisons to consider here. First, we have the Core i5 and Core i7 800 series performance comparisons versus the legacy Core 2, socket 1366 Core i7, and AMD platforms. Then we have to talk about the performance of the three P55 Express-based motherboards we tested.

    As was evident in our testing, the new Core i7 870 processor offers excellent performance. The i7 870 was typically the fastest processor we tested, with the lone exception being the much more expensive Core i7 975. The Core i7 750 too was a strong performer. In the majority of our tests, the Core i5 750's performance fell somewhere in between the Core 2 Quad Q9650 and Core i7 920, and usually well ahead of the Phenom II X4 965.

    The three P55 Express based motherboards from Gigabyte, Asus, and Intel we tested all offered similar performance, but a trend did emerge throughout testing. Generally speaking, the Gigabyte P55-UD6 was the highest performer overall, followed by the Asus Maximus III Formula, and then the Intel DP55KB. The Asus board, however, pulled ahead in the gaming tests, likely due to its superior audio solution. We expect performance between P55-based motherboards to not differ much in the future, once motherboard manufacturers have had time to thoroughly tweak their BIOSes for maximum performance.

    The three Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors launching today have vastly different price points, as you'll see in the chart posted below...

    At $199, the Core i5 750 can easily be considered a hot new mainstream quad-core offering.  As our performance data demonstrated, the chip offers a ton of horsepower for its price point. The Core i7 860, which we were unfortunately not able to test also comes in at a palatable $285. Extrapolating the Core i7 860's expected performance based on our Core i7 870 numbers isn't too difficult however, and we're comfortable assuming its performance will be superior to any Core 2 or Phenom II processor--not bad for under 300 bucks. At $555 however, the Core i7 870 is not what you'd consider a mainstream processor, at least in terms of its price entry point. In fact, at that price it's the third most expensive chip in Intel's current desktop CPU line-up. Regardless, it obviously offers very robust processing throughput commensurate with its price tag.

    We should also point out that P55 Express based motherboards are expected to be quite affordable once the dust settles and they are available in quantity. Enthusiast-class offerings should hover around $200 mark, give or take a few dollars depending on the brand and number of additional integrated features. Entry- to mid-level offerings will start at around $100 on up, which should make for some excellent, high-performance budget-priced systems come this holiday season.

    Ultimately, Intel's has done what they set out to do with Lynnfield--bring Nehalem's features and benefits down into more mainstream price points. The new Core i5 and Core i7 800 series processors are excellent additions to Intel's already stellar CPU line-up and the P55 Express chipset is shaping up to be the darling of motherboard manufacturers and potentially the overclocking community at large.

     

    • Excellent Performance
    • Low Power
    • Highly Overclockable
    • More Affordable Prices
    • New Socket and Coolers
    • Potentially Confusing Naming Convention
    • Core i7 870 Is Still Expensive



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