Core i7 Architecture
The Core i7 processor, launched around this time last year is an all new architecture that followed the highly successful Core 2 Quad lineup. Major changes included the integration of a memory controller onboard the processor and as a consequence, the death of the (arguably) limitation inducing "Front Side Bus" link. In addition, support for Triple Channel Memory was incorporated and the Intel Core 2's huge pool of Level 2 cache has been replaced by small dedicated sets of 256kB per core and a shared bank of 8mb Level 3 cache. Last but not least, the Core i7 saw the return of Hyperthreading Technology, which by specification is meant to aid the processing of multithreaded computations, by treating a given core as two.
The end result is a platform that is completely reworked when compared to the LGA775/Core 2 Duo/Quad. Technically speaking, we're looking at a much more efficient architecture but of course, this all comes at a price and what's more is that as elaborate an architecture might be, it still commands the right software to harness it's true capabilties.
Phenom II Architecture
Upon face value, AMD's Phenom II architecture doesn't appear all too different. The "Deneb" core, used in the entireity of the Phenom II lineup sports 512kB of Level 2 cache per core and a shared pool of 6MB Level 3 cache. AMD does not have a Hyperthreading equivalent and while it has an integrated memory controller and a fast data link, memory will only function in Dual Channel mode and thus reducing the maximum achievable memory bandwith on the Socket AM3 platform.
It's not a particularly new architecture either as the Deneb core is more of a healthy progression of it's roots which stem as far back as the once revolutionary AMD Athlon 64 "K8" core. Core tweaks, an even faster Hypertransport Link speed and a large helping of Level 3 cache has proved to be more than enough to keep these processors up to speed. Another factor to consider is that along with the Deneb core's smaller "die" size and it's supposedly high yields, production costs are lower and this directly translates to lower purchase prices for the end user.
When it comes to mating your prospective new processor with the right motherboard and RAM, AMD does win from a price perspective, with very capable single graphics card boards such as the Gigabyte MA770T UD3P
for under £70 and CrossfireX capable boards from £85. Memory pricing is also very respectable thanks to the requirement for Dual Channel memory over Triple Channel. With this in mind, does the phrase, "You get what you pay for" hold true in the context of this article? Let's see for ourselves.