The Core 2 architecture was a clear win across all fronts for Intel when launched in June of 2006. The same, unfortunately, cannot quite be said for the Core i7. While the new architecture displays enormous potential under synthetic applications, such code is generally more forward-looking and heavily multithreaded than most entertainment software. The games used in our testing showed a more mixed bag of results, with some titles giving the older Core 2 a performance lead while others showing improvement under the Core i7 processors. A trend, though, of newer games favoring the Core i7s does appear to be present in our testing, which is a definite plus for the new architecture. Core i7 may not be quite the blowout against the previous generation that Core 2 was, but readers need to be aware that the architectural improvements in the new design offer an evolutionary rather than revolutionary performance step forward for Intel’s processors. And for those who use their PCs for content creation along with gaming, the Core i7 is an undeniable winner among productivity applications, able to crush anything else currently on the market.
Yet a Core i7 platform upgrade is something of an expensive proposition for current Core 2 or AMD users once you factor in the costs of DDR3 memory and a new socket 1366 motherboard; more so in particular when a Core i7-based system would also need a fairly beefy GPU to go along with the new processor. Hardware sites have shown that Core i7 stretches its legs quietly nicely under multi GPU setups, but a CPU like the Core i7 965 Extreme is most likely somewhat GPU-bound with single-board configurations. Regardless of current e-tailer pricing, Intel has continued to be rather aggressive in its CPU pricing, placing the Core i7 920 CPU at an MSRP below $300. And on top of the initial rollout this month, Intel also plans on introducing a more mainstream platform with the forthcoming LGA1156 socket, P55 chipset and Lynnfield processor. And there’s the inevitable tick for Core i7 as Intel, always aggressive on the fabrication front, plans on moving the new design to a 32nm process next year. Despite the platform costs of upgrading to Core i7, Intel has engineered a CPU design with such massive parallelism that the PC community could be waiting years before a game developer truly takes advantage of its potential. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
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