Inevitably, chips based on the Nehalem family will have between two and eight cores, and will be capable of handling two independent software threads per core. This is called Hyper Threading, Intel's name for the concept. It allows a processor to execute two different code streams at pretty much the same time.
This was a feature found in Intels single-core Pentium 4 processors but largely discontinued with the advent of multicore chips, but it's essentially the same technology as before. With two threads per core, Core i7 chips will pack no less than eight logical cores at launch. If you look at the screenshot to the right you can see that happening. We'll do some benchmarks today with both HT en- and disabled, you'll be surprised how much difference it can make.
The X58 Chipset
The Intel Core i7 processors will be paired with the Tylersburg chipset, you guys know it as the Intel X58 Express chipset. This new chipset will use the same ICH10 "south bridge" as the new Intel P45 (Eaglelake) chipsets, but the X58 chipset will obviously overall be radically different:
The X58 Express will use the new LGA1366 socket (also known as Socket B).
No more memory controller
Intel QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) as the interconnect between the Core i7 processor and the X58 Express.
Some other major features are obviously the discussed support for two x16 PCI Express 2.0 slots with the option for four x8 slots to support quad-graphics cards (CrossFire X) and, if certified by NVIDIA, SLI. We've dealt with X58 in a separate article though.
Socket LGA 1366
We just talked you through the new complexity of the architecture, yet also future scalability. In order for Intel to keep pushing where it needs to go, it needed more wires and pins. Unfortunately that means that you can't upgrade existing Intel Core 2 based PCs with Core i7 chips as socket LGA 775 is now replaced with socket LGA 1366.
Another LGA socket will surface later this year, socket LGA 1156 for mainstream Core i5 processors, currently scheduled for Q3 2009.
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