What to Buy: Mainsteam vs. High End Nehalem
With two sockets targeted at desktops, how will the Core i7s that launched this month stack up to the mainstream Lynnfield and Havendale parts?
The absolute highest frequencies will only be available in LGA-1366 packages and Iâ€™d expect this is where weâ€™d see 8-core/16-thread Nehalem parts first (if not exclusively). Weâ€™ve already shown that the three DDR3 channels donâ€™t really help for most desktop applications, but this could change when Nehalem moves to 8 cores. Overclockability may also be better on LGA-1366 as the CPUs themselves will be higher bins.
Intelâ€™s roadmaps show three pricepoints of Lynnfield processors in 2009. The top end Lynnfield part looks to be something thatâ€™s similar in price/frequency to the i7-940 (or whatever replaces it in Q3 2009). If I were to guess Iâ€™d say thatâ€™d be a $562 3GHz+ Lynnfield with performance somewhere in between an i7-940 and i7-965.
There will be a midrange Lynnfield, most likely priced/clocked similarly to the i7-920 or its eventual replacement. Iâ€™d guess a 2.66GHz - 2.93GHz CPU priced at around $284. Finally the low-end Lynnfield will be somewhere near $200 and probably weigh in at 2.4/2.53GHz. With Havendale not arriving until 2010, itâ€™s currently absent from all Intel roadmaps.
Intel is going to support both platforms, LGA-1366 and LGA-1156 for the long term, the difference will be in the type of processors enabled. LGA-1366 may end up being more of a high end enthusiast play, Intel indicated that LGA-1366 CPUs would be binned higher so you can expect higher overclocks and obviously higher top end frequencies.
At the same time you should be able to get pretty far with LGA-1156, simple 500MHz overclocks shouldnâ€™t be a problem but the 1GHz+ overclocks weâ€™re used to on LGA-1366 and LGA-775 may not be as possible - at least not at 45nm.
Intel isnâ€™t going to do anything to limit overclocking on LGA-1156 platforms, the same current limit bypass thatâ€™s on LGA-1366 boards will be optional on 1156 boards should the motherboard manufacturer choose to support it.
The breakdown seems pretty simple: if youâ€™re the type of person who bought the Q6600/Q9300, then Lynnfield may be the Nehalem for you. If you spent a bit more on your CPU or are more of an enthusiast overclocker, the current Core i7 seems like the path Intel wants you to take.
The issue with Lynnfield is that itâ€™s a good 6+ months away, and if Core i7 can speedup your workloads a lot today then youâ€™ll be tempted to make the upgrade now. In notebooks weâ€™ll see Lynnfield in the larger machines and Havendale in most of the platforms.
Without mainstream mobile Nehalem until Q1 2010, next year will be a very long wait for a serious mobile upgrade. But if you can wait it out, or buy something cheaper today, the time to upgrade will be in Q1 2010. Iâ€™m going to go ahead and revise my Apple notebook recommendation given that we probably wonâ€™t see a Nehalem based MacBook until 2010. Buy the cheapest MacBook you can today and make it last, upgrade again in 2010. Ooh, that rhymes.