Chicago (IL) - Intel is counting down to the launch of its next-gen desktop CPU: Conroe will begin to ship to system builders in Q2 of this year with the official introduction to follow in late Q3. Details are already leaking out of Santa Clara - the chip will carry the sequence numbers E4000 and E6000 and arrive in six versions with clock speeds of up to 2.66 GHz, TG Daily has learned.
This year, Intel will have to prove if it can keep the bold promises it made last year - to surpass the processing performance of AMD processors while cutting power consumption in half. Latest roadmaps seen by TG Daily suggest that the introduction of the new micro-architecture is well on track: While Intel will not meet an initially expected launch date in early H2, the company may be in the final stages of prepping the mass production of "Conroe."
Intel's next-generation microprocessor architecture is developed around the mobile processor core "Merom." Conroe is the desktop version of Merom, while "Woodcrest" will be the server-targeted derivate. Conroe will be the first chip of the family to launch: The processor's introduction is expected to coincide with the unveiling of Windows Vista in September of this year.
According to sources, Merom core now appears to be delayed until Q4 of this year, most likely targeting an October announcement. The new architecture will debut in Q3 in the server segment as Xeon DP 5100 (Woodcrest core); a quad-core DP variant (Clovertown core) will follow in Q1 2007.
Conroe to debut as "Core E4200" and "Core E6000"?
Intel's latest roadmaps are listing Conroe's sequence number for the very first time. Sources suggest that Conroe will be introduced as a member of the "Core" processor family. The sequence numbers - E4200 and E6000 series - are final, but we aren't completely sure which brand name Intel will choose for the desktop processor. Considering that it is a part of the Core family and that the "E" in the sequence number indicates a power consumption of 50 watts or higher, it only would make sense to release the chip under the "Core" umbrella.
In such a scenario, the mobile processors would be assigned the letters "U" (14 watts or less), "L" (15 - 24 watts) and "T" (25-49 watts), while the "E" would be reserved for desktop processors. For the first time in several years, Intel's processor portfolio could gain transparency and reduce the confusion that surrounds its current chip lineup.
Averill and Bridge Creek Platforms
Consistent with its platform strategy, Conroe is just one part of several platforms that Intel will offer to its consumers. For example, Viiv entertainment computers as well as consumer computer systems will be based on the "Bridge Creek" platform which will include the chipsets 975X (DDR2-667, FSB 1066) and Q965 (DDR2-800, FSB 1066) on the high end and G965 (DDR2-800, FSB 1066, Clear Video Technology) in the mainstream segment. Bridge Creek will also integrate a Wi-Fi chipset (3945ABG / 3965ABG).
However, Intel will put a strong focus on its "Averill Pro" and "Averill Fundamental" platforms that are aiming especially at business systems. The "Pro" version will come with an E6000 processor, the Q965 chipset in combination with an extended ICH8 Southbridge, integrated Virtualization and Active Management Technology (VT and AMT). The "fundamental" edition includes Pentium 4 and D CPUs as well as E4000 and E6000 CPUs and 946, 975X, Q963 or Q965 chipsets.
Six processors, up to 2.66 GHz clock speed, mainstream pricing
Intel reminded us repeatedly that the new architecture will show a departure from ever increasing clock speeds and that performance per watt will be the future focus. So it is no surprise that Conroe checks in at significantly less Gigahertz than its predecessor Presler - which currently tops out at 3.4 GHz and will receive one more update before it will begin to be phased out in the third quarter of this year: A 3.6 GHz version (Pentium D 960) as well as a 3.73 GHz Pentium EE 965 will debut on 30 April 2006.
Intel will be offering six versions of the Conroe processor at launch:
- E6700: 2.66 GHz / FSB 1066/ 4 MB shared L2 cache
- E6600: 2.40 GHz / FSB 1066/ 4 MB shared L2 cache
- E6400: 2.13 GHz / FSB 1066/ 2 MB shared L2 cache
- E6300: 1.86 GHz / FSB 1066/ 2 MB shared L2 cache
- E4200: 1.60 GHz / FSB 800/ 2 MB shared L2 cache
- Conroe Extreme Edition (XE): Specifications unknown
All Conroes will keep the current LGA775 packaging designation of the current Pentium D processor; however, there is no indication at this time that users will be able to simply swap a Pentium D 800/900 processor with a Conroe chip. According to sources, mainstream Conroes will post a thermal design power (TDP) of 65 watts, which is half of the maximum power consumption of the Pentium D 800/900. On the high end, that TDP will be exceeded by the variants E6600, E6700 and especially Conroe XE.
Pricing of the new architecture will be in line with previous processor introductions. The E6700 model will cost $530 at launch, the E6600 will be priced at $316, the E6400 at $241 and the E6300 at $209, sources said. We were told that Intel plans to quickly ramp the production to have more processors available at launch than it was the case with previous products. While the Pentium D 900 will post the highest production numbers of Intel dual-core desktop processors in 2006, the company plans to ramp down the production of the CPU beginning in the third quarter and shift production capacities in favor of Conroe.
The latest roadmap is a clear indication that Intel will be able to deliver its new architecture close to the time frame it was expected. While we do not know yet how the new architecture will perform, the lineup looks promising on paper. With AMD introducing Socket (A)M2 processors in Q2, the stage is set for the most interesting year in the microprocessor industry since the Gigahertz race back in 2000.