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Meet The Xeon 5600 Family

Intel Xeon 5600-Series: Can Your PC Use 24 Processors?
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If you’ve already read my Intel Core i7-980X review, then you’re already very much in the know about how Intel built its Xeon 5600 family. The main difference is that while Intel is only selling two enthusiast-class 32 nm six-core desktop CPUs (the -980X and -970), the Xeon 5600-series consists of no fewer than 12 different models, featuring TDPs from 40 W to 130 W, core counts between four and six, clock rates from 1.86 GHz to 3.46 GHz, and 12 MB of L3 cache across the board.

Now you know why I was so enthused about the thought of a true quad-core 32 nm desktop chip back when I wrote that Gulftown review. The fact of the matter is that Intel is already selling 32 nm quad-core CPUs in the workstation space. It just doesn’t see a reason to cannibalize sales of its 45 nm lineup at this point. The good news for business-oriented folks is that there’s really a Xeon 5600 for any application.

If you find 12 models a tad overwhelming, use Intel’s prefixes as a general guide. There are three general classifications in play here. The Advanced lineup (denoted with an ‘X’ prefix) consists of 130 W and 95 W SKUs. You’ll typically find these six models in performance workstations, where pedestal enclosures leave plenty of room for cooling. The three Standard-class chips are identifiable by their ‘E’ prefixes, sporting 80 W TDPs that work well in 1U and 2U rackmount equipment. A trio of low-power ‘L’ models touches 60W and 40 W power ceilings. While these CPUs leverage the lowest clock rates, even the most entry-level chip wields four physical cores, endearing them to entry-level SMB servers.


QPI Speed
L3 Cache
Base Freq.
Max Turbo Freq.
Power (TDP)
Cores / Threads
Price
Xeon X5680
6.4 GT/s
12 MB
3.33 GHz
3.6 GHz
130 W
6/12
$1663
Xeon X5677
6.4 GT/s12 MB3.46 GHz
3.73 GHz
130 W
4/8
$1663
Xeon X5670
6.4 GT/s12 MB2.93 GHz
3.33 GHz
95 W
6/12
$1440
Xeon X5667
6.4 GT/s12 MB3.06 GHz
3.46 GHz
95 W
4/8
$1440
Xeon X5660
6.4 GT/s12 MB2.8 GHz
3.2 GHz
95 W
6/12
$1219
Xeon X5650
6.4 GT/s12 MB2.66 GHz
3.06 GHz
95 W
6/12
$996
Xeon L5640
5.86 GT/s
12 MB2.26 GHz
2.8 GHz
60 W
6/12
$996
Xeon L5630
5.86 GT/s12 MB2.13 GHz
2.4 GHz
40 W
4/8
$551
Xeon L5609
4.8 GT/s
12 MB1.86 GHz
1.86 GHz
40 W
4/4
$440
Xeon E5640
5.86 GT/s12 MB2.66 GHz
2.93 GHz
80 W
4/8
$774
Xeon E5630
5.86 GT/s12 MB2.53 GHz
2.8 GHz
80 W
4/8
$551
Xeon E5620
5.86 GT/s12 MB2.4 GHz
2.66 GHz80 W
4/8
$387


Building On A Familiar Platform

Just as Gulftown (the hexa-core desktop design) is interface-compatible with Bloomfield (the original Core i7-900-series), so too does Xeon 5600 drop into the same LGA 1366 interface as Xeon 5500. The reasons for this are similar to what we discussed in reviewing Core i7-980X, including an architecture that is fundamentally the same and a TDP at or under the previous ceiling. Granted, while a processor upgrade within a year of another isn’t unheard of on the desktop, that’s not usually how the server or workstation markets operate. Even if there won’t be a surge of businesses upgrading their Xeon 5500-based machines with 5600s, the fact that the same motherboards, memory modules, and graphics cards work the same as they did before is at least a benefit to resellers bringing Intel’s latest to their customers.

To briefly recap my Gulftown coverage, Westmere-EP (the internal name for Xeon 5600)…

“…is enabled by Intel’s 32 nm manufacturing process—the same node we saw debut back in January with the Clarkdale and Arrandale processor families. This time, however, enthusiasts don’t have to be bamboozled by a second, on-package 45 nm die handling graphics, memory control, and PCI Express connectivity. The [Xeon 5600] gets us performance-freaks back to where we want to be—on-die memory controller, PCI Express handled by the well-endowed [5520 and 5500] chipsets, and discrete graphics only, please.

With [Westmere-EP], Intel uses its 32 nm process to add cores and cache, rather than push integration. As a result, we have up to a six-core processor with 12 MB of shared L3 cache. Architecturally, [Westmere-EP] is otherwise the same as [Nehalem-EP]. Each core gets 32 KB of L1 instruction cache, 32 KB of L1 data cache, and a dedicated 256 KB L2 cache.

Despite the addition of two cores and 4 MB of L3, [Westmere-EP] employs a smaller die than its predecessor (248 square millimeters versus [Nehalem-EP’s] 263). Transistor count increases from 731 million to 1.17 billion. That’s fairly incredible, considering the [fastest Xeon 5600s] fit within the same 130 W thermal envelope as existing [Xeon 5500-series] processors.”

Task Manager shows off 24 threads, tooTask Manager shows off 24 threads, too

Of course, Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading persist here. More specifically, all but one model include Turbo Boost to accelerate performance in lightly-threaded workloads, and all but one of the new 5600s offer Hyper-Threading, enabling two logical processors for each physical core, augmenting utilization in threaded applications.

One notable change results from Intel revising its memory controller slightly. Previously, the Xeon 5500-series family supported DDR3-1333 memory modules at the high-end, but only with a single slot per channel populated. The fastest Xeon 5600s will now accommodate 1333 MT/s data rates with two modules per channel. We should see this manifest in our testing, as we’re using 12 total 1 GB modules at DDR3-1333 (that’s six modules per processor, three channels times two slots per channel).

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