Intel unveils first 65nm processor Pentium D 955

Santa Clara (CA) - The successor of the first generation dual-core desktop processor Pentium D 800 has been in mass-production for well over three months. Today, Intel announced the flagship of the upcoming second-generation Pentium D 900, code-named Presler: The Pentium D 955 rings in the transition from a 90 to a 65 nm production process and the final stage of the aging "NetBurst" architecture.

If it wasn't for the new 65 nm production process, the features of the Pentium D 955 almost could be overlooked. In the end, the new chip, formerly code-named "Presler" can be viewed as transitional microchip that simply is here bridge the time until Intel's new universal microarchitecture arrives in June or July of 2006.

Intel's decision to first move the Pentium 4 architecture to 65 nm is in line with previous transition strategies, as the company typically uses the most mature processor to debut in the production process. The NetBurst architecture is the prime candidate, despite it is running out of steam in terms of scalability and can reach bunsen burner temperatures. It was introduced in November of 2000 with the first generation Pentium 4 ("Willamette") and was produced in the hundreds of millions, which makes it less risky to transition than any other processor architecture Intel currently builds.

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Dual-die dual-core Pentium D 900 (left)and single-die dual-core Pentium D 800

Compared to the current single-die dual-core Pentium D 800, Intel manufactures the Pentium D 955 and other soon to follow Pentium D 900 processors as a dual-die dual-core processor. This enables Intel to achieve higher yields for the new chip than for the first-generation. Dies, which typically achieve different quality levels even when built on the same wafer, can be picked and matched into matching pairs for Pentium D 900 processors. While the final capability of Pentium D 800 chips was to certain degree random as the CPU's clock speed depend on the slower die, Intel has better control of the output of the new 900-series.

The new processor will be shipping by mid of January and will be the only chip of the series with a 1066 MHz FSB and Hyperthreading capability for four virtual processor cores. "Regular" 900s will just offer two cores and an 800 MHz FSB, according to sources. Dynamic frequency scaling (Enhanced Speed Step) is supported only the common 900-series processors, but not by the performance-tailored 955 model.

The new Extreme Edition 955 comes with a standard clock of 3.46 GHz - which is up 260 MHz from the 3.2 GHz of the Pentium EE 840. The evaluation unit Tom's Hardware received indicated some headroom for scaling, as we were able to easily overclock the processor to 3.73 GHz, 4.0 GHz and even 4.26 GHz without adding additional cooling. However, due to variations in quality, other 955s may offer either more or less overclocking potential.

Pricing of the 955 is in line with Intel's previous strategy. The flagship checks in at $999 in 100-unit quantities, while we expect retail prices to be closer to $1100. Sources told TG Daily that the remaining members of the 900-series will be announced together with the new 65 nm mobile processor "Core," formerly code-named "Yonah," at the Consumer Electronics Show on January 5. The CPUs (D 920, D 930, D 940 and D 950) will cover Intel's desktop processor lineup from the lower mainstream to the high-end. The 920 model will be listed for $241, the 930 for $316, the 940 for $423, the 950 for $637, sources said. Clock speeds will range from 2.8 to 3.4 GHz.

Also expected are 65 nm versions of the single-core Pentium 4: "Cedar Mill" will be integrated into the firm's Pentium 4 600 series and debut as 631, 641, 651, 661 and 671 with clock speeds ranging from 3 GHz to 3.8 GHz. A new 65 nm processor architecture will debut in the third quarter of 2006: "Merom" is developed by the firm mobile processor group and serve as the foundation for Intel's next mobile, desktop and server processors.

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