Intel's dual-core CPUs to set new record high in power consumption

Chicago (IL) - Intel's upcoming dual-core processors once again will test the limits of power consumption. According to documents seen by Tom's Hardware Guide, the Smithfield CPUs are rated at a thermal design power of 130 watts, an increase of 13 percent from today's Prescott processors.

Dual-core and multicore chips promise to be one of the most important advances in processor development history. Intel and AMD claim to be able to achieve new performance levels by integrating two processor cores into one package. This apparently will be possible even with processor frequencies significantly below today's fastest processors. We were also told in the past that these speed gains will require less or little more power than an Athlon 64 or a Pentium 4 5xx/6xx.

At least Intel appears to miss this goal. Documents released to system builders specify the Thermal design power (TDP) of Smithfield processors at 130 watts. This represents an increase of more than 13 percent over today's Pentium 4 5xx (Prescott) and the upcoming 6xx (2 MByte L2 Cache), which post 115 watts. Maximum supply current climbs from 119 ampere to 125 ampere. The new chips also consume more power than Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46 GHz processor (116.7 watts) and Intel's most demanding chip: The Itanium 2 1.6 GHz consumes 122 watts.

Considering that Smithfield chips integrate two processor cores, a power consumption of 130 watts may sound acceptable. But the fact that the Pentium 4 560 (3.6 GHz, 115 watts) already runs at the processor's thermal limits, it is likely that Smithfield processors at least will require more powerful cooling solutions than the conventional cooling fans we are used to at this time.

Today's power consumption already is at a high level and it is questionable, if Intel is heading in the right direction. The company in fact may be well on track to soon produce "small nuclear power plants" - a scary scenario the company intends to avoid, according to a speech of chief technology officer Pat Gelsinger at ISSCC back in 2001.

Intel intends to release the dual-core Smithfields later this year. Competitor AMD so far has not released TDP specifications for its dual-core processors, which initially will be available only for servers.

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