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Graphics cards & PC upgrades Reviews
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Intel Nehalem Xeon review

Depends on system

Manufacturer: Intel

The new Intel Nehalem Xeon CPUs, which are being introduced in countless one- and two-socket servers and workstations, have already generated a lot of heat.

The new Intel Nehalem Xeon CPUs, which are being introduced in countless one- and two-socket servers and workstations, have already generated a lot of heat.

More per core

Without a doubt, these numbers are hugely impressive, even if they are measured against a Tigertown-era chip. A dual-socket Nehalem system handily beats a four-socket X7350 system across the board. And the tests were run with 16 concurrent single-threaded processes, so while the X7350 used one physical core per process, the Nehalem, using HyperThreading, ran two processes per physical core.

Even more impressive, while the X7350 server was equipped with a hardware RAID0 set of four 15,000rpm SAS drives and doing nothing other than running the test scenarios, the Nehalem system ran four SATA drives in a software RAID5 array - and serving double-duty as my workstation.

At the same time the Nehalem was executing my battery of tests, it was driving a 30in and a 24in monitor off an Nvidia Quadro FX 5500, playing an MPEG movie in full-screen on the 30in monitor, and running more than 500 processes across four virtual desktops, including dozens of terminal sessions, Firefox browser sessions, Java applications, and streaming audio - and it still put up these numbers.

We also had an opportunity to run a dual-socket 2.93GHz Xeon X5570 Nehalem system in a different suite of tests. This test scenario comprised FPGA (field programmable gate array) synthesis via tools like Synplicity's Synplify Pro and others. These tools are used to build and test ASIC chip design, and full synthesis and mapping runs can take hours or days to complete.

Previous to the introduction of the Nehalem system, one specific simulation took just over seven hours to complete when run on a dual-socket, 2.66GHz Xeon X5355. The Xeon X5570 running at 2.93GHz finished in 3.5 hours - half the time. The potential for the raw power of the Nehalem chips to accelerate the speed of development in this arena cannot be overstated.

As far as power consumption goes, 2cpu.com's Micah Schmidt put it this way: "In identically configured Supermicro workstations, the Nehalem-based Xeon W5580 system draws an average of 70 watts less than the Harpertown-based Xeon X5492 system at idle. Coupled with the additional performance of the new processors, the performance-per-watt difference is huge."

NEXT PAGE: fasten your seatbelts

Intel Nehalem Xeon Expert Verdict »

Based on a NUMA architecture
45nm Hi-k next generation Intel Core microarchitecture
quad-core layout
731 million transistors
256KB of L2 cache per core
8MB of L3 cache
memory bandwidth speeds: 25.6GBps per link or 6.4GT (Gigatransfers) per second with DDR3 RAM
RAM clocks run at 800MHz, 1,066MHz, or 1,333MHz
Virtualization Technology

Whatever the reasons and machinations behind the development of the Nehalem chip, and regardless of what the future will bring, the raw power Nehalem represents is simply stunning.

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