First keep in mind that these performance numbers are early, and they were run on a partly crippled, very early platform. With that preface, the fact that Nehalem is still able to post these 20 — 50% performance gains says only one thing about Intel's tick-tock cadence: they did it.
We've been told to expect a 20 — 30% overall advantage over Penryn and it looks like Intel is on track to delivering just that in Q4. At 2.66GHz, Nehalem is already faster than the fastest 3.2GHz Penryns on the market today. At 3.2GHz, I'd feel comfortable calling it baby Skulltrail in all but the most heavily threaded benchmarks. This thing is fast and this is on a very early platform, keep in mind that Nehalem doesn't launch until Q4 of this year.
The fact that we're able to see these sorts of performance improvements despite being faced with a dormant AMD says a lot. In many ways Intel is doing more to improve performance today than when AMD was on top during the Pentium 4 days.
AMD never really caught up to the performance of Conroe, through some aggressive pricing we got competition in the low end but it could never touch the upper echelon of Core 2 performance. With Penryn, Intel widened the gap. And now with Nehalem it's going to be even tougher to envision a competitive high-end AMD CPU at the end of this year. 2009 should hold a new architecture for AMD, which is the only thing that could possibly come close to achieving competition here. It's months before Nehalem's launch and there's already no equal in sight, it will take far more than Phenom to make this thing sweat.