OK all you relics of computing like me, reach way back into your memory and think of those Turbo buttons on the front of your 486 computers. Remember those? Well Intel i7’s won’t actually have those, but all the processors in the i7 family will have a turbo mode.
So we all know most computer apps don’t use 4 PC cores right? Well all of the i7 chips are quad cores. But what happens when two of those cores are just sitting there picking their nose? Well intel said “Hey, why don’t we take most of the power they would be using if they weren’t slackers and give it to the remaining cores?”. Thus we get turbo mode, the processor uses the same amount of power but when some cores are off it gets to boost the other cores. Actually this is some pretty excellent technology.
Things like this are why Intel now kicks AMD’s ass most of the time. AMD had to abandon a lot of their R&D in the wake of Intel kicking their ass in performance. Now they just struggle to keep up. Five or six years ago AMD led the way because they had the best research and development out there, it turns out that some of those developments were short sighted (on board FSB, really fast, but makes DDR2 terribly complicated to maximize performance for instance).
With the news of Nehalem delays to mass market people are worried, I wouldn’t be, AMD has nothing up their sleeves to fight Intel. It’ll take an entirely new processor architecture, one that’s revolutionary for AMD to regain the performance lead and some of their lost market share.