Update: Individual chip reviews are up around the Web, and the consensus seems to be universal admiration for the new Core i7's, and Core i5 especially, in terms of performance, value, and power efficiency. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for links to coverage from some of our favorite enthusiast sites.
Intel put itself far ahead of AMD technically last year with its Core i7 desktop CPUs, but the high-end prices for the Core i7 900 series made Intel's most advanced chip architecture more of a luxury than an industry standard. Monday's announcement of Intel's new, more affordable Core i7 800 series chips, as well as an even cheaper Core i5 CPU, will likely lead to Intel's most advanced chip penetrating the mainstream retail market.
Intel has three new chips to announce, as well as the new Intel P55 Express motherboard chipset to support them. The new Core i7's include the $562 2.93GHz Core i7 870, the $284 Core i7 860 at 2.8GHz, as well as the $196 2.6GHz Core i5 750 chip. Each is essentially a stripped-down version of its counterpart from the Core i7 900 series, the most affordable of which, the 2.66GHz Core i7 920, starts at about $280.
The technical sacrifices in the new chips are relatively minor. The new Core i7's have a double-channel memory interface, as opposed to triple-channel RAM in the Core i7 900's. That means new Core i7-based PC owners won't have quite as much RAM throughput, but they also save money by only having to buy two sticks of DDR3 at a time, as opposed to three with Core i7 900.
The sole Core i5 chip has the same two-channel memory limit, and Intel has also stripped out the Hyperthreading capability. Hyperthreading is an Intel technique that effectively doubles the number of processing threads (adding four virtual threads to the four physical CPU cores) depending on the workload. Heavy multitaskers and those who use multithreaded software will feel the loss here, although Intel's current mainstream Core 2 Quad family, which the Core i5 may replace, has no Hyperthreading either.
To build a desktop PC around either new chip, you'll also need a new motherboard using Intel's P55 Express chipset. We've already mentioned the change to the memory interface. The next most significant change has to do with the graphics bandwidth.… Read more