Friday, July 14, 2006

Tech Link (Industry): Here Comes "Conroe"

Brace yourselves!

Intel is set to announce its long awaited Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors tonight, July 14th, at 12:01AM EST. Initially announced at the Spring Intel Developer Forum 2006, Intel’s Conroe was demonstrated beating out AMD’s fastest processors from high end Athlon 64 X2’s to the gaming and enthusiast oriented Athlon 64 FX. Intel also previously launched the Core 2 architecture based Woodcrest Xeon 5110, 5120, 5130, 5140, 5150 and 5160 models. With the new Core 2 architecture Intel is moving away from the megahertz war and moving towards higher instructions-per-clock performance and improved power efficiency instead.
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New Core 2 processors are based upon a new micro architecture that shares its roots with Intel’s Core mobile architecture. Intel will launch Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme dual-core processors initially, though a single-core Conroe-L Core 2 Solo processor is expected in 2007. Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors have a plethora of new features including Intel Wide Dynamic Execution, Intel Smart Memory Access, Intel Advanced Smart Cache and Intel Advanced Digital Media Boost. Intel’s Wide Dynamic Execution technology allows the 14-stage pipeline to have a 33% wider execution over previous Netburst based processors. Each core also has deeper buffers, 4 wide-decode to execute, 4 wide-micro-op execute, micro and macro fusion and enhanced ALUs too.

Intel Smart Memory Access has an improved branch prediction unit with new pre-fetch algorithms that accelerate execution of out-of-order instructions and improve data movement between the L2 cache and system memory. With Intel Smart Memory Access the pipeline is always kept full for more efficient memory access that can mask the latency associated with a north bridge-equipped memory controller. Intel Advanced Smart Cache allows both processor cores to share the same L2 cache -- though bear in mind this has already been done for some time on Conroe's mobile predecessor, Yonah. Lower-end Core 2 Duo processors will have 2MB of shared L2 while Core 2 Extreme processors and higher end Core 2 Duo processors will have 4MB of share L2 cache. Intel claims a shared L2 cache reduces access latency and improves performance.

Intel Advanced Digital Media Boost is a performance enhancement for previous SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instructions. While SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instructions require two clock cycles to execute a single 128-bit instruction on previous architectures, the new Core 2 architecture can execute the same instructions in a single cycle. This improves performance and improves power efficiency as the processor can accomplish the same task in half the time.

Previous features such as Intel Virtualization Technology, Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology and Execute Disable Bit are available on new Core 2 processors as well.

While the performance NDA lifts later tonight availability isn’t expected until July 23rd, 2006. On July 23rd, 2006 consumers should be able to purchase Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors from most online retailers and stores. That being said, it's not unlikely that some merchants will start showing stock immediately to pre-empt shipments. Intel will officially announce availability on July 27, 2006.

Intel Desktop Performance Roadmap
Frequency FSB
Cache Price
July 23
C2D X6800 2.93GHz 1066MHz
C2D E6700 2.67GHz 1066MHz 4MB $530
C2D E6600
2.4GHz 1066MHz 4MB $316
C2D E6400
2.13GHz 1066MHz 2MB $224
C2D E6300
1.86GHz 1066MHz 2MB $183
P4D 945
3.4GHz 800MHz
2x2MB $163
P4D 915
2.8GHz 800MHz 2x2MB $133
P4D 820
2.8GHz 800MHz 2x1MB $113
P4D 805
2.66GHz 533MHz 2x1MB $93

Intel has priced Core 2 Duo processors competitively with a traditional Pentium 4 processors on all price points. At the low end of the spectrum are the 2MB L2 cache equipped Core 2 Duo E6300 and E6400 priced at $183 and $224 respectively. For an extra few bucks consumers can pickup the Core 2 E6600 with 4MB of L2 cache. Topping off the Core 2 Duo lineup is the E6700 for $530. Core 2 Duo processors will be available with 1.86, 2.13, 2.4 and 2.67 GHz respectively.

Gamers and enthusiasts looking for more performance can pickup the Core 2 Extreme X6800 for $999. Unlike previous Pentium Extreme Edition processors which only added a faster front-side bus and Hyper Threading technology, the Core 2 Extreme is clocked at 2.93 GHz, a 263 MHz clock frequency advantage over the Core 2 Duo E6700. Hyper-Threading will not be available on any initial Core 2 based processors. Intel will launch a 3.2GHz Core 2 Extreme processor later this year, and a quad-core Kentsfield Core 2 Extreme processor early next year.

With the launch of Core 2 Duo Intel will aggressively cut prices on current Pentium D 945, 915, 820 and 805 processors. The 2x2MB of L2 cache equipped 3.4 GHz dual-core Pentium D 945 will drop to $163 while the 2.8 GHz Pentium D 915 will drop to $133. Pentium D 820 and 805 processors will drop to $113 and $93 respectively.

Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme compatible motherboards are expected from Asus, Epox, Gigabyte, Intel and Universal abit with 975X, P965 and G965 chipsets.


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