Flying in the face of prevailing industry trends, Intel treated Australasian media, channel partners and assorted followers from the gaming world to what in the current climate counts as a lavish launch of its Core i7 processor in Sydney last week.
According to Intel the Core i7, the second Intel processor series to use the company’s 45-nanometre process, runs 40% faster than the fastest chip in Intel’s existing Core 2 line.
Challenged over the timing of the launch of what Intel is billing as “the fastest processor on earth”, Phillip Ingham, Intel general manager Australia, admitted that 2009 would be an “interesting year”. However, he said Intel had traditionally taken a long term view and was more focussed on the struggle to meet Moore’s Law than economic cycles.
The company was already planning for 2012, when it expected to be using a 32-nm process, and researching as far out as 2015, when 8-nm processes would be employed.
At the heart of the Core i7 are four cores which are capable of running up to eight threads, all of which are visible to the Task Manager in both Windows XP and Vista.
The processor’s piece de resistance is its on-chip “Turbo Boost” software which automatically adjusts the frequency of each core to optimise performance depending on the thermal environment and whether the application is using a single thread or all eight.
At the launch event, Intel staged two convincing demonstrations of the capability of the Core i7 compared to the Core 2. In the first, a Core i7 powered PC achieved a frame rate of around 40 frames per second when converting a high definition video clip from one format to another.
This compared with about 25 frames per second achieved by an equivalent Core 2 system running the same task. In the second demo, both systems ran a graphics-intensive gaming type simulation involving fire and smoke.
While both systems ran the demo at near identical speed, the simulation running on the Core i7 was based on real time calculations according to Newtonian physics, whereas the simulation running on the Core 2 system was rendering from pre-calculated values.
Most of the early Core i7 systems to be commercially available will be aimed at high end gamers, but Ingham predicted that the increased performance of the chip would re-invigorate voice recognition applications and perhaps make face recognition technology more viable.
But will gamers stump up for a premium processor that could add $2,000 or more to the price of a desktop PC?
Chris Dagher, system product manager at Altech Computing, which this week is launching a Core i7-based desktop retailing for around A$8,000 ($9,460), said the initial response from a review in an Australian Sunday newspaper had been encouraging.
“There are plenty out there who don’t mind the price, these are people who want the best,” Dagher said.
Acer product specialist Aaron Jambrovic, whose company is launching Core i7 systems in the A$7,999 to A$8,999 price range, said that it was obvious that volumes were lower at the high end of the desktop PC market. However the Core i7 would appeal to a wide range of users, from graphics industry users and hard core gaming enthusiasts to students, though the latter wouldn’t necessarily be paying for a Core i7 PC themselves.
Foreman travelled to Sydney courtesy of Intel