Intel unleashes quad-core processors

Santa Clara (CA) - Intel is firing up the second stage of its Core microarchitecture: Not quite four months after the company regained the performance crown in the desktop and DP server processor segment, Intel is first to launch CPUs with four cores: The Core 2 Extreme QX6700 rings in a new era for desktop processors, while the Xeon 5300 series spearheads the firm's DP server lineup.M/b>

It is time to replace the dual-core processor, if it is only the latest and greatest that is good enough: The first quad-core processors are out of the gate - Intel today formally announced five new processors: One for enthusiasts desktop computers and four for volume servers.

Particularly interesting, of course, is the QX6700 with Kentsfield core. We first reported about the existence of this processor in December of 2005 after we had received confirmation that Intel had successfully produced its first quad-core processor. About four months later, Intel was prepared to run a first and very brief demonstration of Kentsfield at the Spring IDF of this year. Delivering on its promise to roll out the chip before the end of this year is yet another sign how quickly its 65 nm production process and Core architecture has matured within a few months: Intel visibly enjoys its current lead in the microprocessor market.

The desktop quad-core is available in only one version: The QX6700, built from two individual Core 2 Duo cores, is clocked at 2.66 GHz and integrates 2 x 4 MB L2 cache. The CPU runs on FSB1066 and supports virtualization and Speed Step-based power saving features. Since it is purely aimed at the enthusiast market, the chip does not integrate Intel's active management technology (AMT). It is worth noting that the chip, other than for example the Pentium EE 840 and 965, does not support Hyperthreading - which, at least in theory, could add another four virtual cores to the CPU.

The Core 2 Extreme QX6700 will be offered in parallel to the dual-core Core 2 Extreme X6800, which is clocked at 2.93 GHz. Intel claims that the quad-core is about 80% faster than the dual-core in certain applications. Early benchmarks conducted by Tom's Hardware's engineers showed that an overclocked 3.33 GHz version of the QX6700 is about twice as fast a Pentium EE 965 while consuming about the same power. A regular, non-overclocked version of the QX6700 is rated at a thermal design power (TDP) of 130 watts or exactly twice the TDP of the 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo E6700 (65 watts).

Dell was first to announce a quad-core, Kentsfield-based desktop computer and confirmed speculations that the quad-core chip will be expensive. The cheapest quad-core system is offered for about $3700, while a Core 2 Extreme X6800 computer is available from $3000. Dell charges customers more than $1200 to upgrade from a dual-core E6300 processor to a Kentsfield quad-core in certain server configurations. Intel's chief executive officer Paul Otellini mentioned in the firm's most recent quarter earnings call that Kentsfield will remain a limited production processor and roadmaps seen by TG Daily appear to confirm this claim: Quad-cores will account for less than 5% of Intel's desktop processor production throughout 2007.

A significantly faster transition will be seen in the DP server/workstation segment: Intel today launched four Xeon 5300 series processors (with "Clovertown" core) which are based on two Xeon 5100 ("Woodcrest") cores. The X5355 (2.66 GHz) and E5345 (2.33 GHz) run on FSB1333, while the E5320 (1.86 GHz) and E5310 (1.60 GHz) use FSB1066. What is specifically impressive about the Clovertowns is their power consumption: The E5345, E5320 and E5310 are rated at a TDP of 80 watts or exactly the maximum power consumption of the Xeon 5100 dual-cores. The "Extreme Edition" X5355 is an exception with a TDP of 120 watts. Tray-pricing for the new Xeons starts at $455 for the 1.60 GHz version. The E5320 is priced at $690, the E5345 at $851 and the X5355 at $1172.

The desktop continues in the tradition to charge $1000 for the high-end desktop model. However, this price is more a theoretical value, as retail and etail pricing will react to limited availability and early adopter demand. At the time of this writing, the lower end of the QX6700 etail pricing scale hovered around $1070 with some stores asking for as much as $1300.

Click through our slide show to get all details about the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 and Xeon 5300 series as well as a preview of what Intel is planning for the near future.

Related articles:
Opinion: Should you switch to quad-core now?
Dell first to officially roll out quad-core system
Tom's Hardware benchmarks Intel's first quad-core "Kentsfield"
Intel's quad-core rings in a new era of enthusiast systems
Dell's first quad-core systems indicate hefty premium for Kentsfield CPU
Intel quad-core QX6700 makes official debut in price/performance charts
Intel Roadmap update 11/2007: Core 2 Duo to hit 3 GHz, introduce FSB1333 in Q3 '07

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