San Francisco (CA) - Intel's next mainstream computing platform is officially introduced today. Three new Pentium D chips integrate two processor cores and promise to improve computing performance in multitasking and multimedia environments. New are also the 945P/G chipsets that succeed the 915 series.
After nine months of rigid testing the Smithfield core, Intel will finish first in the race of bringing a dual-core processor to the general desktop market. The Pentium D follows the high-end Pentium Extreme Edition 840, which was launched three weeks ago.
The first and likely only members of the Pentium D family will be the model 820 (2.8 GHz), 830 (3.0 GHz) and 840 (3.2 GHz). The processors are equipped with 1 MByte L2 cache per core, support FSB 800 and are virtually identical to the Pentium Extreme Edition 840, but do not offer Hyper-Threading capability.
Intel does not charge a premium for the Pentium D chips which indicates that the firm aims for a quick transition to dual-core. Pricing stays in line with past strategies: The top-end model 840 is priced below the $600 mark ($530), the 3 GHz version can be purchase for $316 and the 820 version for $241 - what could be considered a bargain given the fact that Intel is introducing the Pentium D as new generation processor. The aggressive pricing will translate into PC systems that are priced well below the $1000 mark.
The standard chipsets for the Pentium D will be the i945P and the i945G with the integrated graphics core GMA-950. The units have a different pin-count than the preceding i915/25 series and therefore have to be coupled with Smithfield. As the high-end i955X, the mainstream versions support FSB800 as well as DDR2 memory. Among the improvements is also ADAT 7.1 channel audio capability.
Despite the fact that Intel is planning on a rapid transition from single- to dual-core processors, the 90nm Smithfield is not expected to gain significant market share this year. Analysts expect that Intel will ship 10-20 million Pentium D's this year - roughly 5 to 10 percent of the total desktop/mobile processor market. Instead Intel appears to focus much more on Presler, the 65nm successor of the Pentium D, to begin replacing its single-core Pentium 500 and 600-series with dual-cores in the consumer market. As Smithfield, Presler will be built on Intel's NetBurst architecture that is quickly nearing the end of its scalability. A completely new dual-core architecture is expected to arrive with the "Conroe" processor, which is scheduled to debut late in 2006.
Being first to the market allows Intel to capture much of the attention of the market and may provide an advantage over AMD. However, according to media reports and manufacturers, AMD is gearing up to launch its dual-core desktop chip Athlon 64 X2 before the end of the month as well. And, as first reviews have shown, AMD will have a significantly faster chip (for a much higher price) available.