Intel Core i7 can work in dual CPU mode

But not with the X58 chipset

THERE HAS BEEN a lot of discussion about EVGA’s dual CPU board that was displayed during CES earlier this month. The main topic of discussion was what CPUs it would work with and most people presumed it was limited to Xeon processors.

However, one of our sources informed us today that it’s possible to make a pair of LGA-1366 Core i7 processors work together, but it requires a few things. First of all you need to use the Intel 5500 chipset rather than the X58 chipset. A few modifications also need to be done to the reference board design and a special BIOS is also needed.

We also found out that EVGA isn’t the first company to make a motherboard that will work with two Core i7 processors, but we can’t divulge who the other company is at the moment. However, the board in question is a workstation board and its not targeting the consumer market, as it’s based on the CEB form factor. A CEB board is only slightly bigger than an ATX board at 12 by 10.5 inches compared to 12 by 9.6 inches for a standard ATX board. This means that you can have most of the functionality of the EVGA board on a much smaller PCB.

However, the main argument is that the Core i7 processors have only a single QPI link – the same goes for the UP version of Intel’s Xeon processors – and as such it would be impossible to use more than one of these processors in a dual socket board. It seems like this isn’t the case as the workaround that we were told about relies on the motherboard chipset as a “hub” for the two CPUs to communicate through, much like Intel’s older dual CPU motherboard solutions prior to the introduction of Nehalem.

We don’t know if this will have an impact on performance or not, but an educated guess is that it would have a slight adverse affect due to extra latency added by going via the chipset rather than direct from CPU to CPU over a QPI link. Is it going to be enough of an issue for those interested in such a system? Most like not, at least not as long as we’re talking about enthusiasts and overclockers.

Intel would of course keep this close to heart because, although this is unlikely to become a hugely popular consumer platform due to the high cost, it could potentially pose a threat to its high-cost Xeon DP processors. As a Core i7 processor or even a Xeon UP is vastly cheaper than a Xeon DP processor this could lead to Intel losing a lot of money, at least when it comes to the entry level dual CPU server and workstation market.

We still don’t know if this is what EVGA is trying to do with its monster board, but at least this nugget of information makes it a lot more feasible that this board will work with a pair of Core i7 processors. There’s still that little nagging question about how much a setup like this would cost and, despite the feasibility of it all, unless you’ve got very deep pockets, it’s likely still going to be just a dream.S|A

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