Intel quad-core processors may see spike in power - sources

Chicago (IL) - Yesterday, Intel released its fastest server and workstation processors ever at a power level we haven't seen in several years. But the "Core" architecture, which the new Xeon 5100s are based on, may not be the universal solution for the long term, as power consumption may top 100 watts once again when quad-cores arrive in early 2007, TG Daily has learned.

Just as we were getting more and more excited about Intel's Core architecture - which without doubt is a huge improvement over Netburst - we are getting word that the upcoming quad-cores, "Clovertown" for DP servers and "Kentsfield" for desktop computers, will consume significantly more power at lower clock speeds. According to sources, Clovertown, which merges two dual-core Woodcrest cores, will not only grow in die size (292 mm2, up from Woodcrest's 142 mm2), but also be rated at a maximum power consumption of 110 watts (up from 80 watts of the 3.0 GHz Woodcrest chip.)

Those 110 watts refer to a 2.67 GHz version of Clovertown, which apparently will be the fastest version offered at launch in Q1 of 2007. Intel's first quad-core will include 2 x 4 MB shared L2 cache and house a total of four "Merom" (Intel's mobile processor based on Core architecture) cores. Clovertown's FSB speed will drop from 1333 MHz in Woodcrest to 1066 MHz and supported FB memory speeds will drop from 667 MHz to 533 MHz, according to sources.

To put these bits of information into perspective, we have to mention that we consider the data as very reliable, but the data refers to a processor which will not be released for another six to nine months. While unlikely, changes to the specifications are possible. Also, while a 110 watt maximum power consumption rating sounds sobering when considering the maximum 65 watt and 80 watt Woodcrest processors, we would assume that the chips won't touch this level and will typically run in a 90-100 watt range. This would allow Intel to come close to a quad-core Opteron - if AMD will be able to deliver on its promise that a quad-core Opteron will not use more power than a dual-core Opteron today.

We are still learning: Energy efficiency does not necessarily mean low power.

Intel declined to comment on the power consumption of an "unannounced product," however a trend towards increased power consumption in a processor that merges two existing processors appears to be unavoidable. In that sense, we expect Intel to position Clovertown and its desktop version Kentsfield to be positioned as performance server processor and enthusiast CPU. Clovertown will have drop-in capability in Woodcrest boards (Kentsfield will be compatible to Conroe systems) and enable users to boost their performance, while returning to a power level we have gotten used to in recent times: For example, Intel's Netburst dual-core (server and desktop) processors were rated at a thermal design power of up to 130 watts and AMD's socket AM2-based enthusiast processor Athlon 64 FX-62 is rated at 125 watts. In the view of gamers, power consumptions is a secondary concern at best and in a competitive view, a 110 watt quad-core enthusiast processor may still be able to win the performance-per-watt crown for Intel.

Sources indicated that Intel already is shipping samples of Clovertown and Kentsfield to system builders, while AMD apparently won't be ready to supply samples until later this year. AMD will soon be offering four cores in enthusiast systems as part of its "4x4" technology, which allows users to integrate two dual-core processors within one system. Needless to say, two 125 watt FX-62 processors won't be what we would call power-efficient.

Intel merges two Woodcrests into one Clovertown processor

So, if you are waiting for a chance to run a quad-core processor at Woodcrest or Conroe power levels in the near future, don't get excited just yet: It won't happen with this first generation of Core processors, as quad-cores will be reserved for high-performance and enthusiast systems. While these quad-cores could still be considered as power-efficient (think performance-per-watt) when compared to Netburst, you will need to stay with dual cores - Conroe and Merom - if you are looking for low power consumption. Low power quad-cores, we hear, may become available when Intel launches the successor of the Core architecture, which is due in the 2008 time frame. So, look for a power adjustment when Intel introduces its first 45 nm processors at the end of 2007 and for a larger drop, hopefully back into the 65 watt range of today, when a new processor generation arrives sometime in 2008.