Intel is starting the week by officially shipping out one of its most important products in several years, Core i7, the first member of a highly anticipated processor family based on the company’s code-named Nehalem architecture. As previously reported in our review, three versions of the chip are being offered, each featuring 4-cores operating in the 2.66 to 3.20GHz range and priced from $284 to $999.

Chief among the improvements in Core i7 is the return of Hyperthreading, an on-chip memory controller with DDR3 support and faster connections between the processor and components thanks to Intel’s new QuickPath interconnect.

More than 18 computer makers are expected to begin selling high-end systems based on the Core i7, including custom PC builder Smooth Creations, which has gone all out with its Prophet i7 gaming series of enthusiast desktops featuring a vast choice of top-notch components along with one of their custom paint jobs.