The closer the cache is to the processor, the faster it moves. Essentially, cache stores data in the pipeline, sort of like having a batter in the box, it's faster getting the batter to the plate than moving him all the way from the dugout, plus he's warmed up and ready to go.

As closer cache (to the processor) moves more quickly, less is needed the closer it is. The combo they're using of L2 and L3 cache in the middle option is pretty damn good, IMHO.

I think the 2.66Ghz i7 is probably the best value here- you WANT hyperthreading. The quad core i7 processes eight threads simultaneously (think parallel computing... in addition to more processing cores, each core can complete two tasks at once instead of one). Also, for ten bucks more than the 2.88Ghz option, you're getting level 2 and level 3 cache, plus QPI for more memory bandwidth. (Okay, that's not all... it's a completely new way for the processor to talk to memory and other components) For an overall more robust computing experience, I'd definitely take that over the extra 1.34Ghz CPU speed. The only other concern may be wattage, if you're energy-conscious.

For the Gigabyte logic board, I lost my notes, but the model GA-P55M-UD2 or model GA-EX58-UD5 should work with either the i5 or i7.

This is a pretty good article on hyperthreading. Wikipedia has one as well.
Here's a good one on QPI.

Edited by Antonio (12/31/09 02:45 AM)
Edit Reason: added info
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