Intel to launch first Nehalem chip today

Quad-core processor released

Intel has scheduled the launch of its first Nehalem chip for today, which is also the day several PC makers begin shipping desktops running the new processor.

Steve Smith, vice president and director of operations for Intel's digital enterprise group, said earlier this week that the first Nehalem chip, officially named Core i7, will be a quad-core designed for high-end desktops used by power users and gamers. Intel has been shipping previews of the chips to hardware vendors since September.

Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group, says he's been test-driving an Intel-built desktop running the quad-core chip with the hyper threading turned on, so it's virtually an eight-core. "It's fast. It's really fast," says Enderle.

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He also notes that the chip shows "significant improvement" in power efficiency, a key requirement for high-performance computing.

The Nehalem architecture features a 45-nanometer, four-core processor with an integrated memory controller that eliminates the need for a front-side bus. The new architecture is modular, which officials say will make it easier to scale from two to eight cores.

The Core i7 chips also are being designed to have two-way, simultaneous multi-threading, use Intel's QuickPath interconnect, and have a three-level cache hierarchy, Intel says.

Smith says an eight-core Nehalem is slated to ship in the second half of 2009, while two-core and four-core Nehalem chips for laptops should ship at about the same time.

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