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Intel Core i7 chip reviews arrive--yes, it's fast

Intel's Core i7 processor is expected to launch later this month--appearing first in fast gaming desktop PCs.

Updatd on November 3 at 9:00 a.m. with additional information about Dell Core i7 systems.

Intel's Core i7 processor will first appear in fast gaming desktop PCs, as reviews arrive confirming its speed advantage over the Core 2 architecture.

The first comprehensive reviews hit Monday leaving little doubt that Intel's Nehalem chip architecture will greatly surpass anything Intel offers now.

Reviews cover the Core i7-965 Extreme Edition used with Intel's "SmackOver" motherboard, aka the DX58SO Extreme.

Core i7 processors expected to launch later this month include 2.66GHz (Core i7-920) and 3.20GHz (Core i7-965) versions. Prices will range roughly between $285 and just under $1,000.

Dell said Monday it is expecting to launch four desktops that include the new Core i7 Intel processor technology. These desktops will range in price depending on the accompanying technology, starting at $949. Timing will be tied to Intel's official launch of Core i7.

Other PC makers expected to bring out boxes include Gateway and Hewlett-Packard.

What is Nehalem/Core i7 exactly? The architecture will scale from two to eight processor cores, have faster chip-to-chip communication (Intel calls this technology QuickPath), do a better job of adjusting performance levels to suit power needs, and have a higher level of integration (more logic will be built directly onto the processor die).

Other salient features include more scalable memory (each processor will have its own dedicated memory), the ability to do more stuff simultaneously (up to 16 threads with simultaneous multi-threading), and new instructions to increase efficiency (called SSE4.2 instructions).

And who's going to buy i7 systems initially? Here's what CNET Reviews editor Rich Brown says: "We don't expect mainstream users will adopt Core first, at least until the motherboard prices come down."

Brown continues: "In the short term, it will benefit gamers and digital media types. The initial systems will be gaming oriented." (See these ExtremeTech gaming benchmarks.)

"We ran our own tests and found the flagship $999 Core i7-965 Extreme chip is the new fastest game in town," CNET Reviews said.

The i7 identifier will apply to the first crop of high-end desktop processors. Other identifiers will come later that will complement the i7. There will be a separate black logo for the highest-end offering called the Extreme Edition. Model numbers will differentiate each chip.