Intel Core i7 Processors: Nehalem and X58 Have Arrived

High-Res Gaming: 3DMark Vantage and Crysis

For our next set of tests, we moved on to some high-resolution graphics benchmarking with 3DMark Vantage and Crysis. For these tests, we've compared a Core i7 Extreme 965 powered system against two Core 2 Extreme QX9770 powered machines--one running a Radeon HD 4870 X2 CrossFireX configuration (X48), the other a 3-Way SLI configuration (nForce 790i SLI Ultra) consisting of three Zotac GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition cards.  Our goal was to see if upgrading to a Core i7 CPU had an impact on performance in more GPU bound circumstances.

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

The Ultimate Gaming Hardware: Core i7 with 3-Way GeForce GTX 280 SLI or 4870 X2 CrossFireX

NVIDIA has clearly done some optimizing for the Core i7 / X58 Express platform.  As you can see the 3-Way Zotac GeForce GTX 280 SLI configuration put up much better numbers on the Core i7 platform than it did on the Core 2 Extreme.  The Radeon HD 4870 X2 CrossFireX configuration also showed a slight performance increase in 3DMark Vantage, but nowhere near as large as NVIDIA's.  And in Crysis, the CrossFireX configuration actually performed a bit lower than the Core 2 Extreme.  During the course of writing this article, ATI had actually released two sets of beta / hotfix drivers that incorporated tweaks for Intel's new platform, but it appears there is still some work to be done.  We know Intel and ATI are working together to optimize performance for CrossFireX and the Core i7, so we're confident more performance will be coming soon.  We should point out that our numbers for the CrossFireX config, while reproducible, do not jibe with ATI's own internal benchmarks.  Once we get to the bottom of the issue, however, we will re-run these tests and update the graphs where necessary.

Due to the fact that the Core i7 features an integrated memory controller, graphics drivers have to make an additional hop to access system memory that wasn't in place on the Core 2, which results in higher latency.  The graphics manufacturers have to optimize their drivers to account for this higher latency, and also tweak access patterns to take advantage of the extra bandwidth offered by the Core i7.  Although things are working properly right now, expect performance gains from both ATI and NVIDIA in the weeks / months ahead as they get a better handle on the intricacies of the Core i7 / X58 express platform.

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