The Nehalem Luxury Socket . . .

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Intel has revealed its Nehalem strategy. We’ve known for quite some time that desktop Nehalem was going to require a new socket.

We didn’t know there was going to be two of them.

There will be two sockets, an LGA1366 and an LGA1160. The first will include a Hypertransport QPI link to the rest of the system, and if Intel isn’t going to have 3-core CPUs, they can have 3-channel memory. The 1160 won’t have either.

What is more interesting about the two sockets is not what but when. The bells-and-whistles LGA1366 platform will come first, towards the end of 2008, while the LGA1160 systems (which also include duallies with an integrated graphics core) will come rather later, sometime in the second half of 2009.

What we have here is nothing less than the first superpremium platform for a CPU line, defined by its own exclusive socket with a few blue crystals added. What they didn’t do with the X48 chipset, they will do with Nehalem.

Intel obviously is not going to roll out Nehalem too quickly or cheaply; they’ll spend the end of 2008 and much of 2009 phasing out C2Ds and letting Penryns reign for a few quarters before the “regular” Nehalem line shows up for Christmas.

Some may say, “Doesn’t this more than slightly resemble AMD’s strategy with quads first, others later?” Yes, it does, but it illustrates that a strategy isn’t enough, you must have the proper environment for it.

For LGA1366 to succeed, it’s going to have to be perceived to be better enough than not only AMD’s offerings, but Intel’s Penryns, to a relatively select group of people who’ll pay a few hundred extra for it.

I would greatly suspect that items like a third memory channel and a QPI link to the rest of the computer in-and-of-themselves will do little to improve performance, but add that to the likely more substantial improvements coming from an integrated memory controller, and these superpremium systems could look pretty good compared to what will be out there at the time, whether from AMD or Intel. That is likely to be the difference between it and Phenom.

Of course, if they don’t, then LGA1366 will flop just like the first generation of Phenoms, and for the same reasons.

What these first Nehalems will probably not look so hot against will be the “regular” Nehalems when they show up later, but then, they won’t be there, will they?

I can see where this is headed: yet another step in the Gouging the Gamers game, but I suppose the horse left that barn a few years back.

At least Intel isn’t going to continue this multicore breeding for the desktop. There’s going to be just one octocore model, the Nehalem EX, (and yes, it will have its own socket, too, (LGA1567), but it won’t be out until the latter part of 2009, and from the specs, it’s obviously meant to be a killer server chip.

Ed


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