Intel this week offered a preview of platforms using its Core i7 Extreme Edition processor. Although the company is aiming the processor heavily at the gaming market, analysts said there are also clear business applications for the processor.
Code-named Gulftown, the i7-980X Extreme Edition processor is the industry's first 32nm, six-core processor with 12 computing threads. Intel introduced the i7 family last September with its exclusive Turbo Boost technology and Hyper-Threading Technology.
Turbo Boost is built into the latest-generation Nehalem micro-architecture and automatically allows processor cores to run faster than the base operating frequency if the chip is operating below power, current and temperature specification limits. Hyper-Threading Technology, along with Turbo Boost, works to increase performance of both multi-threaded and single-threaded workloads.
Portable Workstation Benefits
"The Core i7 chip has a special sensor built into it. If it detects that an application that would benefit from high throughput is launched, it can actually boost the clock speed and throughput of the chip by about 10 to 15 percent," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "So if you've got a graphics application where you need an extra oomph, the Turbo Boost can give you that extra kick-start to get a little bit better performance."
This is a clear win on the gaming front, but King said it also shines in the portable workstation market. With a Core i7 chip featuring Turbo Boost, engineers can take their workstation on the road without losing speed or productivity. A second business application for the Core i7 is support for HDMI high-definition video output in notebooks. King pointed to Dell's Vostro 3000 laptops, announced last week, as a prime example.
"If you are an executive or high-end salesperson who's going out on calls, this gives you the ability to run sophisticated graphics applications, high-def video, and other kinds of tools that could be useful for executive or sales presentations," King said. "The i5 will support HDMI output as well. So it's not absolutely necessary to have the i7. But if you are looking for crisp performance and crisp graphics at the same time, then the i7 is a good choice for not a whole lot more money."
Initially, King thought the market for the i7 and the notebooks would be relegated to the gaming space. Although this is a key target for Intel, there is also potential with what King calls "ultrafancy executive laptops and portable workstations."
"I think we are going to be seeing OEMS like Dell and others that recognize that it's not just well-heeled executives that want to be able to run applications and utilize sophisticated graphics," King said. "There's a real opportunity for vendors to reach out to entrepreneurs and small businesses that see the value in that type of technology either as a product development tool or a sales tool."