So many users are searching around the net these days looking for advice about which components to purchase and how to overclock. This guide is not meant as a comparison between AMD, and Intel. This guide assumes you’ve already decided to purchase an Intel based system, and takes you to the next step…..deciding which one. The emphasis here is on value, overclocking, and overall system performance. If you want to continue searching out other opinions, please consider each suggestion with caution. Some will undoubtedly be great, some will not. This isn’t a comparison test, but a simple overview of the different choices from Intel and their inherent strengths and weaknesses.
Once you’ve made your decision and purchased your system, the overclocking guides below will help you gather a better understanding of how your system works, and will give you a very methodical approach to overclocking it. If you have not yet made your purchase decision, continue to read below to assist you with your decision. After you have selected your hardware, please come back to visit the overclocking guide pertinent to you.
When the Nehalem Micro-architecture was introduced to the world in the fall of 2008, everyone took notice. The Intel Core series of CPUs that started with Conroe in 2006 was very strong, but I’m not sure anybody anticipated that Intel would be able to be successful with two micro-architecture generations in a row. So, when Nehalem first hit the scene, it was a shock and awe campaign. Not only did Intel have the performance to stay well ahead of the competition, they actually improved on the previous generation so greatly, that a large quantity of users already on the stellar Core 2 Duo/Quad platform were compelled to upgrade without skipping a generation. Since AMD has not had anything competitive from an outright performance standpoint, Intel has cornered the high end market for quite a while. What follows is a brief look at the various platforms that Intel has introduced since Nehalem’s release.
First we have the Nehalem family which consists of 45nm quad core CPU’s
Next is the Westmere family which consists of 32nm, dual core, quad core (Xeon only), and hex core CPU’s
There are many other versions of CPUs designed for the enterprise (Xeon) and the mobile markets. I will not include any details about them within this guide; some of the Xeons are virtually identical to the desktop counterparts and may be worth considering. For more details, please see this wiki about Xeon CPUs. The mobile equivalents won’t even fit into the desktop sockets, so I won’t spend any time on them.
All Clarkdale CPUs feature two pieces of silicon; the first chip contains the dual CPU cores and L3 cache, it is manufactured on a 32nm node. The second chip is the graphics core, memory controller, and PCIe controller and is manufactured on a 45nm node. The pictures below should help you understand a little better.
The new 32nm lithography is very exciting and powerful, and overclocks very well, unfortunately with Clarkdale, the 32nm CPU is tethered to the older technology which creates some unique challenges when overclocking. The memory controller is dual channel and officially supports up to DDR3-1066. Memory and graphics performance are both fairly limited with Clarkdale. If you plan to run multiple graphics cards, I’d recommend an X58/LGA1366 based system.
Currently, there is only one Pentium CPU based on Clarkdale, the G9650. This is a very good budget buy, and has very good overclocking potential, but lacks Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology and Intel® Turbo Boost Technology. It is also limited to only 3MB of L2 cache.
These CPUs are similar to the Pentium G6950 but add Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology. They also come with 4MB of L2 cache.
These CPU’s are very similar to the i3’s but add Intel® Turbo Boost Technology. The i5 655K has an unlocked multiplier for maximum freedom in overclocking. The i5 661 differs from all other Clarkdale based CPU’s because its integrated graphics core runs at 900MHz instead of the standard 733MHz in the rest.
These CPUs are manufactured on the 45nm process. They have dual channel IMCs and PCIe controllers built into the CPU die. This is the closest Intel has come so far to integrating an entire system on a single piece of silicon for the desktop market (that will all change next year with Sandy Bridge, but that discussion is for another time).
Each core has its own 256KB of L2 cache, and all four cores share 8MB of L3 cache. The memory controller is dual channel and officially supports up to DDR3-1333. Lynnfield CPU’s are known for their extremely high memory speeds and for very good value in the quad core marketplace. Similar to Clarkdale, I would recommend to anyone interested in multiple graphics cards, that you consider an X58/LGA1366 based system for additional PCIe bandwidth, just like Clarkdale, these CPU’s have only 16 PCIe lanes built in. All Lynnfield CPUs include Intel® Turbo Boost Technology.
The only things that separate the i5 Lynnfields from their i7 siblings is their exclusion of Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology, Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (Intel® VT-d) and Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT).
So, these are just like their i5 siblings, except that they include all three technologies missing from the others. Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology, Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (Intel® VT-d) and Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT).
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