Intel's 65 nm Process Breathes Fire into Double-Core Extreme Edition


Intel's business has been going well. However, its reputation suffered considerably when it failed to realize in time that the public would resist the literally hot 90 nm NetBurst portfolio. Processor power consumption doubled within two years while performance levels remained almost static. Focusing on features and platform advantages is a great idea, but no amount of marketing is capable of putting the lipstick on the Prescott pig well enough to distract you from the energy bill.

Be that as it may, AMD has the lead, both in performance and performance-per-watt benchmarks. However, Intel is in a good position to strike back with its progress in 65 nm manufacturing. Not only do the smaller structures allow for ramping up production volumes, but they also clearly help to decrease heat dissipation and power consumption. At the same time, more features such as the Virtualization Technology or larger L2 caches could be added (the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 is the first desktop product with a 4 MB L2 cache). Finally, the 65 nm generation allows for bumping up clock speeds: We guess 4 GHz for single cores and 3.6 GHz for the current double core products will be available by Q2/2006 at the latest.

The latest Extreme Edition processor underscores the premise that manufacturing technology is what matters most in the processor business. 65 nm enables Intel to make up for the flaws in its current 90 nm portfolio and to deliver competitive products over the coming months. While the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 manages to beat AMD's top-model, Athlon 64 X2 4800+, in many benchmarks, it can't overtake it. In the end it is solely the manufacturing technology that enables Intel to keep pace with AMD in performance terms today - interestingly enough, using the NetBurst architecture that Intel had previously conceded is not the Holy Grail.