The Core i7 Platform
Now that we have taken a look at a bit of the theoretical, it's time to take a look at what it all comes down to in real world terms. Here we have the three big contenders on the market. On the left we have the new Core i7 processor with the Core 2 Quad snuggled next to it and the AMD Phenom X4 processor at the end. While the Core i7 is manufactured on the same 45nm wafer that the Penryn CPU first made famous, the actual CPU package has grown quite considerably.
Using Intel's own images, we wanted to show you what the CPU looks like without a heat spreader. Compared to the Core 2 Quad 45nm series, the die is huge. However, this is because Intel needed to squeeze 731 million transistors onto the package. Not only are there four physical cores, but also a QPI interconnect, memory controller, system request queue (what all of the cores use for inter-core communications) as well as a new 8MB L3 cache; we can't expect it to be smaller when so much more is added.
Comparing all three CPUs from the back side, the Core i7 while larger, looks somewhat similar to Core 2. This is because Intel has done away with pins on the processor since the Pentium D series of CPU. I can personally vouch for killing one or two 478-pin test bed processors because of having to remove and insert them into boards for reviews. If you accidentally pull too hard on the heatsink when removing it from the board, you could easily bend or break a pin.
Core i7 uses a Land Grid Array of 1366 pins, that's 591 new pins. Intel needed to add extra pins for the QPI connector as well as extra pins for the memory module traces as the modules now connect directly to the CPU. This is a far cry from AMD who still use pinned processors in the desktop market which are prone to bending and breaking. It's harder to ruin the pins on the board compared to the CPU. Ever since using LGA775 CPUs in test beds, we haven't bent a single pin on any board we have had.
The X58 chipset looks like Intel's older 900 and 800 series chipsets which used a FC-BGA arrangement; this made them look like Socket 370 Pentium 3 processors. X48 and X38 had their own Integrated Heat Spreaders, but X58 revives the old tradition and is laid bare. For a chipset with no memory controller, its die is extremely large. I'm not sure why this is, unless QPI needs more die space?