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Designed primarily for server and workstation applications, dual Xeon systems have largely led a niche existence. Additionally, their high price made them unattractive for standard users. Dual Xeon systems also required expensive storage modules, special power packs and big, ugly cases. Now, however, the situation has changed considerably.
When we compare, for example, the price of a Pentium 4 Extreme 3.2 GHz against two Xeons with 2.8 GHz, we see that the latter option turns out to be much less expensive. A Pentium 4 Extreme costs $950, while two 2.8 GHz Xeons can be had for $760. Applications that explicitly support the dual processor environments usually operate much faster with two CPUs than with one.
Also, a lot has happened in the area of memory technology. Thanks to the introduction of the AMD Athlon FX, Registered DDR memory has clearly become cheaper; even many no-name manufacturers have switched over to it. Two 512 MB modules, for example, can already be had for $250. In addition to that, finally there are currently motherboards for the Xeon Socket 604, which can operate with unbuffered memory - provided they are based on the E7505 chipset from Intel. Until now, this market segment was dominated by the space-hogging WTX boards, but now many manufacturers also offer such systems in the usual ATX format, and a Dual Socket 604 board fits without any problems into a conventional desktop tower. The prices for such motherboards start at around $260. Due to the price situation, the dual-capable E7505/Placer chipset is an obvious choice, especially for the Xeon.
Even when taking HyperThreading processes into consideration, there are big everyday advantages for certain users who have a PC equipped with dual processors. As a result, software for graphics rendering, video and audio encoding and simultaneous operation of two or more calculation-intensive applications profit from the impressive increases in performance. In the area of graphics rendering, there is dual-capable software, such as 3D Studio MAX, Cinema 4D and Lightwave; in video encoding, there is, for example, MainConcept Encoder, Pinnacle Studio 9 or Flask Mpeg.
In addition to multiprocessor software usage, the user's work environment is also slowly changing. Because graphics cards often have two slots, and monitors are relatively inexpensive, many users already use two displays. Ambitious home users can tell you a thing or two about that: whoever wants to encode a video and start a game at the same time will immediately experience the limits of a single processor system. An intelligently configured dual platform reacts differently.
Here, we analyze Intel's dual-processor capable E7505/Placer chipset and offer tips for memory usage. In a subsequent article, using a self-programmed tool, we will show that increases in performance can be achieved with certain applications, as long as certain threads are not managed by an operating system but are manually assigned to a CPU. In connection with that, we have also completed a comparison test of E7505 motherboards, which will be posted soon on the website.