Intelligent Performance Inside Intel’s Core i7

I first met Stephen Gunther at an “Eco-Nehalem” briefing in San Francisco in October. He and his team are redefining what it means to be “power-wise” with the new processor design codenamed Nehalem, which will hit the market starting November 17 as Intel Core i7 processors.

Stephen is a Power Management Architect who is helping optimize the four compute cores that make up Core i7 chips so that one, two or three of the cores can shut down to zero power consumption while the other three, two or one core(s) can get the balance of electricity required to muscle through video rendering or coast smoothly enough for leisure Internet surfing.

In this video, Stephen describes the energy-to-performance optimization of Turbo Mode, which is a new function built onto Core i7 chips.

In addition to explaining that Core i7 processors have:

- Quad-core

- 731 million transistors

- 8MB 3rd Level Cache

- Hyper-threading technology, or also known as Simultaneous Multi-Threading

- New SSE4.2 Instructions

- Integrated DDR3 Memory Controller

….Stephen showed me how the new Power Gate Transistors work. These are integrated power switches placed between the power supply that feeds each core. These are the actual switches that can bring the power consumption of each core down to zero. When I first saw this, it felt like Intel chip designers were “putting on-off switches where no on-off switches had been before.”

These are just a few of new performance and power-wise features inside Core i7 processors that gather more “intelligence” so the chips know how to adapt to specific performance needs while remaining trained on consuming less energy whenever possible.

Stephen reminded me that Turbo Mode, Power Gates and other features together build upon the benefits that are already exist in the 731 million 45nm High-K metal gate transistors, Intel’s leading edge tiny engines that leak very little electricity and can turn on and off with mind blowing speed.

One Response to Intelligent Performance Inside Intel’s Core i7

  1. ac says:

    Hey. Talking about “eco-processing”, is (don’t need answer, Please just relay to someone working on i5) Intel doing something on Integrated GPU+Discrete GPU co-utilization in such a way that as end user I will also benefit being on the Intel platform in that the Discrete high power GPU are not consuming power when there is no high end 3D app running?
    Currently most of the power consumption in my otherwise very efficient Intel system is by the 3rd party discrete GPU. I would hope to see Intel specify together with Microsoft a roadmap for being able to use any compatible discrete GPU together with eg. Clarkdale with Integrated GPU so that both can be utilized in same session with transparent switching one at a time for maximum power saving (Integrated for 2D/Aero use, Discrete when Game is running).