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A Brief History Of Extreme Systems

Intel Skulltrail 3: 8 vs 4 Core Performance
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When the chipmaker introduced its first Extreme Edition processor, Intel was forced to fall back on the workstation and server line of products since its desktop parts lacked the performance. When AMD unveiled its Athlon 64 FX-51, Intel was forced to sell a Xeon processor, which contained an additional 2 MB of L3 cache, as a desktop CPU under the name "Pentium Extreme Edition 3.20 GHz". Initially, these CPUs used the Prestonia core but later transitioned to the newer Gallatin design. At the time, switching to a different motherboard or even an entirely different platform in order to use such an Extreme Edition CPU was not necessary, since Intel packaged the CPU as a desktop part.

The Intel Pentium Extreme 3.20 GHz system

This was possible since the server processors used the same front-side bus protocol as the desktop parts. Only since the desktop and server/workstation technologies have drifted apart has the buyer been forced to buy a special motherboard for an Extreme Edition system.

The AMD 4x4 system

AMD was the first to bring dual-socket systems to the desktop with its 4x4 system. Intel, in turn, was the first to market with a quad-core processor, making AMD fall far behind in the desktop processor performance race. To compensate for this setback, AMD decided to put two dual-core CPUs on a dual-socket motherboard. For this approach, AMD used Opterons from the server segment, which ran a mere 200 MHz faster than any of its siblings at the time and were called "Athlon 64 FX70 to 74." The drawback was that AMD was forced to develop a completely new and very expensive motherboard for the CPU design. To make things worse, there was only one manufacturer that made the motherboard. Today, this system has been all but forgotten, and AMD no longer ships the 4x4 processors.

With the introduction of its Skulltrail platform today, Intel is following in AMD's footsteps. Both the D5400XS Skulltrail motherboard and the new Core 2 Extreme QX9775 processor were originally designed for the workstation/server segment.

The Intel Skulltrail test system

The system is not exactly a revolutionary step for the users - more like a comparatively cheap server CPU and a specially designed and frightfully expensive motherboard. Intel is expecting its desktop buyers to spend a good deal of money on this combination so that Intel won't have to develop anything new in this arena. We've already seen once before how this story can unfold with AMD's 4x4 system, and the same fate may also await Intel's Skulltrail. As the saying goes, "Those who do not learn from history..."

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