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Friday, October 9, 2009

Intel Quietly Announces Core i5 and Core i3 Branding

Now that's pretty quiet. Intel, today, announced its Core i5 and Core i3 branding with very little detail. The post that inspired all of this is here, which I found from Cyril's summary on Tech Report (btw, Cyril's posts pretty much always rock).

The important take away points are as follows:

1) The new brand is Intel Core. There will be three derivatives: Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3.

2) The Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad branding will eventually disappear.

3) Pentium, Celeron and Atom will remain.

4) Centrino will also go away and Intel's WiFi and WiMAX products will inherit the name starting in 2010.

But what separates a Core i7 from a Core i5 and Core i3? I may have some insight. Let's start with desktop processors:

Desktop ProcessorCoresThreadsTurbo
Intel Core i748Yes
Intel Core i52 or 44Yes
Intel Core i32 or 44No

Only the Core i7 is allowed to run in a LGA-1366 socket, however there will be LGA-1156 i7, i5 and i3CPUs . The number of memory channels and the presence of a QPI link does not determine branding. In other words, Lynnfield will be both a Core i7 and a Core i5 depending on the SKU.

The LGA-1156 Core i7s will be the 8xx series, while the LGA-1366 i7s will be the 9xx series. The i5s will be the 6xx series and the i3s will be the 5xx series.

Four cores and HT enabled with turbo mode yields you a Core i7 on the desktop. If you only have support for up to 4 threads then you've got a Core i5; take away turbo and you have a Core i3.

In mobile, things are a little different:

Mobile ProcessorCoresThreadsTurbo
Intel Core i72 or 44 or 8Yes
Intel Core i52 or 44Yes
Intel Core i32 or 44No

The mobile i7 can be 2 or 4 cores and support 4 or 8 threads, which makes sense since there will be more dual-core than quad-core mobile processors. The rest of the lineup follows the desktop rules; i5 and i3 are capped at 4 threads and i3 doesn't have Turbo.

I've got one more thing to report. Remember how I wasn't totally sure about the turbo modes for the top end Lynnfield processor in our preview? I think I've got it:

Desktop ProcessorClock SpeedMax Turbo (# of Cores Active)
Intel Core i7 8702.93GHz3.20GHz3.20GHz3.46GHz3.60GHz

From what I've heard, this is going to be a Core i7 870 and the turbo modes are similar to what I estimated. With two cores active this thing will turbo up to 3.46GHz (4 speed bins). That's going to be a huge boon to performance in games and other apps that have difficulty using more than 2 threads. Combine that with Windows 7's superior thread handling and I believe we have a winner on our hands.

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