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Intel to Ship First Dual-core Xeons Early -- Cuts Some Pentium 4 Prices

As the multi-core duel heats up, Intel moved to steal some thunder from AMD this week by announcing it will ship its first dual-core Xeon CPUs earlier than promised. Additionally, over the weekend, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company slashed prices on several of its Pentium 4 desktop processors.

Intel plans to ship two dual-core server processors -- originally set to ship in the first quarter of next year -- by the end of 2005. One CPU will be the dual-core Intel Xeon processor MP, code-named "Paxville," for servers with four or more processors. (See article "Intel Presents Roadmap for Multi-Core CPUs" from March 3, 2005.) The other, designed for dual-processor servers, is codenamed "Paxville DP," the company said in a statement. Both CPUs will use the new E8500 chipset with its support for dual-core processors and will support Intel’s EM64T 64-bit memory addressing technology.

Dual-core processors provide two complete CPUs on a single chip, basically functioning as if the computer had two processors instead of one. Intel's Xeon processors also include Intel's Hyper-Threading technology that enables a single core to execute two threads simultaneously. Thus, at least theoretically, a two-CPU machine powered by Paxville processors could provide the raw computing power of a current eight-processor design. In reality, only some software loads can take advantage of HyperThreading and the maximum performance gain from that technology is in the 30 percent range.

At nearly the same time, Intel posted dramatically lower prices for its five 600 Series Pentium 4 desktop processors, slashing costs by 20 percent to 33 percent. At the high end, the Pentium 4 model 670, which has a clock speed of 3.6 GHz, has been cut from $851 to $605 apiece in lots of 1,000. At the bottom, the 3-GHz model 630 has dropped from $224 to $178 each. The biggest percentage cut came on the 3.6-GHz model 660, however, with a full third off -- it was $605 but now costs $401.

All of the Series 600 CPUs have 2 MB of Level 2 cache, feature an 800-Mhz front side bus and are built using current 90 nanometer technology. In addition, all support EM64T.

Intel also provided a status update on its Xeon processor roadmap in advance of its upcoming Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco next week. Paxville DP will be followed in the first quarter of 2006 by a broader family of dual-core Intel Xeon platforms, codenamed "Bensley" for servers and "Glidewell" for workstations, the company says.

The company expects that more than 85 percent of its server volume by the end of 2006 will be multi-core processors. Intel also remains on track to begin shipping dual-core Intel Itanium processors by the end of the year.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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