Intel have been churning out i7 920s for so long that their fabrication section have absolutely got the design and production process nailed. The original 920 C wasn't exactly bad, but it definitely suffered from a little too much heat and the overclocking abilities varied wildly depending upon the batch your processor came out of. Some barely cracked 3GHz while others found 4GHz to be a breeze.
Intel nearly fixed this with the release of the D0 stepping variant of the 920. This had much more consistent performance although some still did better than others. The main reason for the more reliable overclocking ability was the reduction in the heat output which was such a large part of the 920 C0/1 limitations.
Enter the 930. Still 45nm and, at a glance, the main difference is the increase from a base multiplier of 20 to a new base of 21. This has the naturally effect of increasing the base clock from 2.66GHz to 2.8GHz. So we get a little extra performance at stock but otherwise we can't really see the need for an entirely new model designation.
The move from the i7 920 to i7 930 is even more puzzling when we see it isn't 32nm, but also hasn't got the new AES instructions that enabled the 980x to demolish encryption tasks with ease.
|# of Cores||4|
|# of Threads||8|
|Clock Speed||2.8 GHz|
|Max Turbo Frequency||3.06 GHz|
|Intel® Smart Cache||8 MB|
|Intel® QPI Speed||4.8 GT/s|
|# of QPI Links||1|
|Instruction Set Extensions||SSE4.2|
|Max TDP||130 W|
|VID Voltage Range||0.800V-1.375V|
So far, so uninteresting. Maybe like many hardware items there is something lurking within that doesn't show up in a pure specification list.
A Quick Look
As todays review is of a processor, unlike many items we get there really isn't a lot to see. Nonetheless, here it is.
Very standard Intel packaging we've all seen a ton of times before.
Inside the box is a stock cooler and the 930 itself. The i7 930 comes in the plastic cover anyone who has brought a processor will be familiar with.
The stock Intel cooler is as poor as it's always been. Unlike the 980x we reviewed previously the 930 doesn't come with a tower style, rather a horizontal one. Just about enough for stock speeds, but it'll be the first thing to go if you want to look after your purchase.
That's the easy bit done and dusted. Onwards dear readers.
Over and Undervolting
"Huh?" we can hear you crying. Undervolting? We will come to that in a moment. Firstly the reason you're all here.
As we said in the introduction the 930 is more of an evolution of the 920 that the revolutionary 32nm low-end processor we're waiting for. Consider it more like an Stepping 920. Firstly the processor at stock.
As previously mentioned we have an extra multiplier which should enable us to hit a good overclock. One of the main benefits of this latest evolution of the mainstream i7 is that Intel have had a while to really iron all those bugs out and produce a very consistent chip. Hopefully this will mean that you'll all get these results and no longer will we be seeking out that elusive batch that clocked so well.
Our results saw 4.2GHz at 1.34v. Absolutely amazing numbers and, as you can see from the screenshot below, totally rock solid. 920 owners would dream of 4.2GHz at 1.34v. This got us to thinking....
So often at OC3D we push things in one direction and try and get all we can out of it. Understandable considering we're Overclock3D.net after all. However the 930 performs so well at reasonable voltages when overclocked, and the default voltage is so low, how low could we get the core voltage and still maintain stock stability?
Starting at 1.05 volts on the core we see it's still completely happy to run at stock.
Dropping down to 1.0v we have the same result. Except this time our jaw is also dropping along with the voltage. Please pay close attention to the CPU temperatures.
Finally 0.95v and still the 930 happily runs at 2.8GHz. Words don't do this justice. Sub 1v for a quad-core hyper-threading 2.8GHz chip under load and still stable is insanity. For the majority of us we all like "moar powerrrrr" but if your use is such, say for example an office environment or an part of an HTPC setup, then so much horsepower but with minimal power draw and a vastly lower thermal profile is Manna from Heaven. Who needs mobile CPUs anyway?
The perfect balance?
Of course we couldn't leave it there. What if we could meet in the middle and find the balance between the i7 930s ability to barely need any core volts, but also overclock easily?
It took a lot of testing but we finally found the sweet spot. 1.112v on the core and 3.8GHz. I think you'll agree that this is outstanding.
Does this incredible stability also come with increased performance in testing?
ASUS Rampage 2 Extreme
6GB Corsair Dominator GT @1333
1000w OCZ PSU
1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3
Noctua NH-D14 with Arctic Cooling MX3
Core i7 930 @ Stock and @ 200x21 for Overclocking
At stock the 930 has the little advantage we'd expect to see from the extra 140MHz clock speed. However there is obviously a benefit from the refined process as this advantage remains in the overclock tests.
Lavalys Everest shows that this is most certainly not a freak set of circumstances. Again the stock result has the benefit of the extra clock speed, but this remains even when both processors are overclocked to the same level. Considering that the 920 needs an extra 0.1v to achieve this, it really shows how advanced the 930 is.
wPrime, which performs a similar test to Super Pi again shows that the 930, even at identical clock speeds to the 920, has enough benefit to outperform its predecessor.
PC Mark Vantage
The PC Mark Vantage suite tests the whole system rather than the processor solely, and we can see that the stock results stay where we'd expect with the 930 having a small lead, but in overclocked trim the difference is negligible.
POV-Ray, similarly to our previous page, mainly relies on pure grunt and so the 930 gains a lead over the 920 and holds it even in our overclocked test.
To the surprise of exactly nobody by now, once again the 930 bests the 920 by a reasonable margin. The OpenGL test showed a similar improvement, but we know that the 5870 can handle all the horsepower it's possible to throw at it.
3D Mark Vantage CPU Tests
Part of the 3D Mark Vantage suite is a pure CPU test. Although this plays a small role in the final score it's sufficiently separate that we've included it within these results.
Both CPU1 and CPU2 tests demonstrate that the 930 is proving an outstanding processor.
Away from the more synthetic testing, does the 930 still hold its lead when gaming?
3D Mark Vantage
Once away from the more CPU limited tests into the general system based ones we find the difference between the 930 and the 920 reduced to margin of error differences.
Dirt 2 is the first of our genuine games and, unlike 3D Mark Vantage, we see the 930 regaining the lead it's held throughout our testing with around a couple of frames gained at all ends of the scale.
Another victory for the i7 930. Great performance in both stock and overclocked trim.
Shift is quite strenuous on every element of your system as it provides good physics, great graphics and absolutely outstanding sound. Albeit by a single frame we finally see the 920 lead the 930. It's quite fitting that it was our final test as we shall see in our conclusion.
Well this was a surprise.
When we first heard rumours of a replacement for the brilliant i7 920 we were hoping that it would be the 32nm revision that gave us such incredible performance in the 980x. Finding out it was still based on the 45nm process left us feeling a bit flat. After all the 920 D0 isn't exactly a slouch in the overclocking stakes and so if all we're getting for our £230 is one extra multiplier which, unsurprisingly, increases the base clock by 133MHz we weren't exactly jumping for joy.
However, to dismiss this as a very very very slightly faster 920 but with identical performance in other areas is hugely mistaken.
Unlike the 920 our 930 hit 4GHz without flinching. Breaking through this barrier was more problematic but we still hit 200 BCLK at a very reasonable 1.35v. A far cry from the 1.45v many 920s required to hit 4GHz and having none of the problems with multiplier (for those unaware some 920s would work better with 19 or 21 as the multi rather than the default 20).
That would be impressive enough to make it to the top of the list of great value processors, but the 930 has a fabulous trick up its sleeve and it's almost more impressive than its overclocking capabilities.
If you're happy with the speed at stock it can run perfectly stable at 0.95v. Anyone who follows hardware closely will be wiping coffee off their monitor about now, so if you don't then take it from us, that's mightily impressive.
The zenith of the i7 930 is combining those two features into a 3.8GHz monster that is completely stable and cool at 1.11v. The savings in energy cannot be denied either at stock or given the 1GHz overclock. To be honest the extra voltages needed to go from 3.8GHz to 4.2GHz are difficult to justify because 3.8GHz will still be plenty fast enough in nearly every application.
If you want a processor and don't want to splurge on one of the higher end, and vastly pricier, processors then the 930 is wholeheartedly recommended. It's tough to recommend if you've got a D0 920, but for those early adopters who have a C-stepping 920 you seriously need to consider moving to the 930.
If this is what we get with 45nm, roll on the 32nm update.
- Amazing OC ability
- Even more incredible low voltage performance
- The CPU for almost everyone
- Bad? 3.8GHz @ 1.11v and you expect a bad? Pah.
Many thanks to Intel for providing the i7 930 for todays review. Discuss in our forums.