Intel Nehalem Processor and SSD Sneak Peek

Intel was showing off some of their next-gen hardware today at a posh NYC hotel on the east side of Manhattan.  There aren't many specifics we can talk about just yet, but we were allowed to snap off a few pictures of a system that we're sure many of you are eager to check out.  What you see pictured here is a complete Nehalem-based rig, built around an Intel X58 chipset motherboard.  Unfortunately, we can't disclose any benchmark scores or frequencies, nonetheless, there is still some interesting stuff to see here.

Intel's Nehalem Demo System

First off, how about that case?  The Nehalem demo machine was assembled in an Origen AE S21T HTPC enclosure, complete with a 12.1" touch screen with a native resolution of 1280x800.  The screen is mounted on a motorized panel that slides down to reveal the optical drive and card reader beneath.   Being displayed on that screen was a partial task manager window showing CPU utilization across the Nehalem processor's four cores.  You see eight bars there, however, because Nehalem has new Hyper-Threading functionality built in.

The Nehalem processor installed in the board was adorned with a large, Thermalright air cooler. And although the CPU was significantly overclocked, the heatsink was essentially cold to the touch.  I actually held the heatpipes for a few seconds after watching a video encoding demo that pegged all four cores at 100% and they weren't any warmer than room temperature.  If you look a little deeper into the system, you can also see three DDR3 DIMMs installed in the X58 chipset-based motherboard.  Because Nehalem has a built-in triple-channel memory controller, maximum bandwidth is achieved when three sticks of memory are installed.  And in case you're wondering, yes, an on-die memory controller with three channels of DDR3 memory does offer significantly more peak bandwidth than anything else currently available on the desktop.  We should also note, that because the X58 chipset itself doesn't have a memory controller built-into the Northbridge, the chipset's power consumption should be markedly lower than current enthusiast-class offerings.

Triple-Channel DDR3 & Dual SSDs

Also in the system were a pair of 80GB Intel-built solid state drives running in a RAID 0 configuration. After seeing these drives in action and talking with representatives from Intel, we now know why Intel is excited to bring these drives to market.  The combination of an Intel designed SATA II controller with high speed flash has resulted in a wicked-fast SSD.  Unfortunately, again, we were asked not to disclose benchmark scores, but we can say the sustained transfer speeds were significantly higher than anything else we have seen to date.

To demonstrate what was possible with massive amounts of memory bandwidth and processing horsepower, and an ultra fast storage sub-system, Intel showed off an application that cataloged 16GB of digital photos and sorted them based on the date and geographical information.  A custom touch-screen was assembled (see the PCBs and sensors around the edges of the LCD?) to demonstrate how quick it was to jump to, sort, and manipulate such a large amount of digital information.

We should have more information regarding Nehalem and Intel's SSD during IDF in the third week of August, so stay tuned.