In November 2008, Intel announced the launch of the successor to its Core 2 based consumer line of 64-bit processors. The Core i7, built on the brand new Nehalem architecture, represents much more than a trivial upgrade to Core 2. Keep reading for the details, and for a quick look at some products based on this new architecture.
In the most significant overhaul since the Pentium Pro, the new architecture incorporates an integrated memory controller into an Intel processor for the first time, along with a point-to-point interconnect protocol and the capacity for up to eight cores. These improvements are designed to ensure fast and efficient data flow to the processor, in conjunction with the Intel X58 chipset.
All this ensures the new Nehalem processors can maximize their performance potential. Major mainboard manufacturers have not been slow to release new products based on the Nehalem/X58 system, and this article will compare the first offerings from five key players: Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, DFI and Intel itself.
As perhaps the most instantly recognizable name in the mainboard business, it's no surprise that Taiwanese giant Asus has been quick off the blocks to support Nehalem. With two distinct board lines already released, the company clearly perceives a market, even at the premium prices that are only to be expected when buying into a brand new system.
P6T: Available in five different versions, the P6T is a state-of-the-art quad-core board with an extensive list of advanced features, comprehensive hardware support and capacity for up to 24GB of RAM in six DIMM slots. It also takes advantage of one of the X58 chipset's new features to provide support for both ATI's CrossFire and Nvidia's SLI multiple graphics card technologies. X58 is the first chipset that supports both, and Asus have taken the bold step of being among the first to release a board that does so.
The board is built for durability from quality components such as the high grade Conductive Polymer capacitors. Deluxe versions of the board have clearly been built for overclocking, as they feature the ASUS Super Hybrid Engine which includes the TurboV overclocking application and advanced EPU power management. WS (Workstation) versions are designed for lightning fast stability.
Rampage II Extreme: Emblazoned across the hardware of Asus's alternative Core i7 board, the Rampage II Extreme, is a sticker bearing the proud legend Designed For Overclocking. The company describes the Rampage as the ultimate overclocking board for tweaking fun, and to back this up the board is being released under the Republic Of Gamer (ROG) brand.
Available at price point similar to that of the highest specified P6T boards, it offers similar capabilities but without several of the superior quality components, although it does retain dual CrossFire/SLI support. Instead it offers a selection of tweaking tools such as TweakIt for simple, powerful overclocking control, ProbeIt for hardware overclocking assistance, and the Extreme Engine that manages power supply stability. This board is one for the gamers.
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