It’s the worst kept secret in the industry: Intel’s next-generation Penryn killer, codenamed Nehalem is just around the corner. We’ve been seeing leaked benchmarks based on early silicon for months, and Nehalem’s Wikipedia page is already packed with unconfirmed specifications. All indications – and this is with more optimizations to come, mind you – is that Nehalem may be a bad mother worthy of having Isaac Hayes pound out a theme song for it.
OK, we get it. It’s going to be fast, but just how difficult is it to build a Nehalem rig? What are the catches? Will the new motherboard and socket require some silly new BTX form factor? To find out, we convinced one of our hardware contacts (who’ll remain unnamed) to let us into its lab so we could finally get our hands on the new chip. There, we were provided with the desktop version of Nehalem – called Bloomfield – and an Intel D58XSO “Smackover” board.
Read on to see how we built the Nehalem rig, and what surprises we encountered along the way!
We’ve been calling Intel’s next-generation CPU family code-named Nehalem a Penryn-killer because, sadly, AMD’s best and brightest have hardly been that. For those who haven’t sifted the sands of the Internet, and picked the brains of OEM’s and hardware vendors for every detail of Intel’s next-gen microarchitecture, here’s your quick primer on Nehalem that’ll make you big man on campus at the next geekfest.
How Many Cores?
Most Nehalem’s will be native quad-core with all four compute cores on the same physical die. Intel says that the design of Nehalem will also let the company build an eight-core version, codenamed Beckton, for servers. Intel also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a multi-chip version so could perhaps see a double-die Beckton with 16 cores as well.
An improved version of HyperThreading will find its way into the core of Nehalem. This improved simultaneous multi-threading, or SMT, will let the OS see a quad-core chip as eight cores. Although some still debate its merit, the implementation of HT in the Pentium 4 generally added 15 percent more performance in multi-threaded applications.