Pedal to the Metal:

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

The Intel Core i7 CPU and X58 Chipset arrive at the end of the month and should power IT solution providers into the next generation of the workstation market.

Intel sent over a reviewer’s kit, which included a Nehalem CPU (the $999 Core i7-965), an Intel DX58S0 Motherboard (Smackover chipset) and an Intel SSDA2MHO80G solid state hard drive. We added four gigabytes of Corsair DDR3 RAM (four 1GB Modules), a NVidia Quadro  FX1700 display adapter and a NZXT high performance PSU. To test performance, we installed Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit and used PassMark Performance Test (64Bit).

On our first test pass, with everything set to factory defaults, the system scored a passmark rating of 2412.2, which is quite impressive. For reference, we compared the performance to a recently tested HP XW6600 Dual Xeon workstation , which scored a 2892.6 Passmark rating. The HP system used the same video card, but had 8 Gbytes of RAM. That shows the Nehalem and Smackover combo comes within 17 percent of the performance offered by a dual Xeon setup.

Next we decided to experiment with overclocking the Nehalem and pushed the CPU from the factory rated 3.2Ghz clock speed to 3.6Ghz. That brought our score up to a respectable 2701.3, narrowing the performance gap between a dual Xeon workstation and Nehalem to just about 7 percent. Pretty impressive, when one considers we were comparing a single Core i7 quad core CPU to a pair of quad core Xeons. At 3.6Ghz, the system remained stable. We encountered no lockups or system failures, and the supplied Intel CPU fan was able to keep everything within operating temperatures. Any attempts to go beyond 3.6Ghz were met with lockups, blue screens and boot failures.

One thing is certain, Nehalem shows that Intel is able to crank up the performance of the 45 nanometer architecture, while proving to still be affordable. But, some wonder how anyone could consider a $999 CPU to be affordable. Simply put, a single Nehalem can do the work of a pair of Xeons. Those Xeons currently cost more and all of the supporting hardware, such as a dual CPU motherboard board, higher wattage PSU and so on all add to the cost .

For solution providers, Nehalem should become the CPU of choice for high performance systems and should bring higher margins to system builders, thanks to the new Intel Chipsets and the use of DDR3 RAM.


Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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