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> Intel Extreme Edition 955
post 31 Jan 2006, 04:19 PM
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[TITLE]Intel Extreme Edition 955[/TITLE]

[center]user posted image[/center]

It seems like it was just yesterday that we were sitting here discussing Intel’s move to the 90nm manufacturing process and the “Prescott” core, yet today we have the first chip in our hands built using the latest 65nm process, the “Presler” Extreme Edition 955. The move to 65nm comes after a rather problematic transition to 90nm. With the “Prescott” core, Intel adopted a huge 31 stage processing pipeline, up from the 20 stages that were previously seen across the Pentium 4 line.

Surprisingly, the “Prescott” core fared well against the 20 stage “Northwood” on a clock-for-clock basis due to some of the architectural changes. The Achilles heel of both the “Prescott”, and eventually the “Prescott 2”, core was and still is, heat. These cores pump out tremendous amounts of heat to go along with their light dimming power consumption. Well, maybe not quite to that level, but nevertheless under both idle and load conditions these cores gobbled up power.

The 31 stage pipeline can be thanked somewhat for causing the increase in power consumption, as well as heat. One of the main trade-offs of a high frequency, deeply pipelined processor is that it’s undoubtedly going to gobble up power. In the future “Conroe” will cut the current pipeline length to 14 stages, something that will certainly help Intel with power consumption.

With the later versions of the 90nm “Prescott” core, Intel took on the issue of power consumption by implementing thermal controls and dynamic clocking into the Pentium 4 line. We’ve seen this in action and it works like a charm, taking our 3.4GHz processor down to 2.8GHz when under lower load conditions. This technology helped lower the power consumption, but alone it wasn’t enough to make up the huge difference between the Pentium 4 and its leading competition from AMD.

With the advent of the “Smithfield” core, we saw similar heat and power consumption issues arise now that we had not one, but two processing cores running side by side. With the addition of EIST on the Extreme Edition and Pentium D models beyond the 820, the processors would dynamically lower the multiplier to 14x when the system was running under a low load state. If full processing power was required, then they’d quickly ramp back up to their full multiplier setting allowing for full utilization. The problem of power consumption will be better addressed in the future with “Conroe” variants and the un-named architecture.

For now, we’re seeing the launch of the first 65nm cores, code-named “Cedar Mill” and “Presler”. The “Cedar Mill” processors will be launched in the future and are quite simply the single core versions of the “Presler” dual core processors. With the move to 65nm, we should, in theory, see at least a decent drop in power consumption between the “Smithfield” and “Presler” cores. “Presler” and “Smithfield” differ in that “Presler” features two separate cores that are interconnected, while with “Smithfield” both of the processing cores were on one piece of silicon. Architecturally, they are one in the same, with a little shrinkage.

[center]user posted image user posted image[/center]

The Extreme Edition 955, based off of the “Presler” core features the 1066MHz FSB Intel stole away with the Extreme Edition 840, as well as an additional 1MB of L2 cache for each core. This brings up to a total of 4MB of L2 cache for the Extreme Edition 955. We also have the Hyper-Threading support allowing for four threads to be handled at the same time, as well as the implementation of Intel’s Virtualization Technology, EM64T, and finally the Execute Disable Bit. On the outside, the Extreme Edition 955 looks just like any other run of the mill LGA775 Pentium 4 processor. To power the Extreme Edition 955, we have Intel’s i975X motherboard, the D975XBK. We’ll be covering this chipset / board combo in more detail in the coming weeks.

..:: Dual Core : Is It For Me? ::..

Although the dual core processors have been out on the market for a little while now, our initial stance still holds as it did with their original debut. The average computer user, and even some of the high performance crowd, likely wouldn’t see much, if any, benefit from switching over to a dual core processor at time being. Given that the bulk of software out there now is only single-threaded, the dual core option would blow out the window and be ineffective. The performance under these applications will look just like a regular Pentium 4 running at a similar or lower clock. This isn’t to say, however, that others wouldn’t reap a wealth of benefit from a dual core solution.

Software that is multi-threaded, such as CAD, DV Editing, and a few Gaming applications would see a nice performance boost from the two execution cores. We’re even seeing more and more patches becoming available that offer up multi-threading and multi-core support in recently released games, such as Quake IV. These patches are allowing for some solid performance gains for both Intel and AMD based dual core processors.

If you’re in the field of DV or CAD, then these processors could provide a cheaper upgrade from current multi-processor systems. The strength of dual cores in a single-threaded environment lies with multi-tasking. Dual core setups will allow for a far more responsive system in a multi-tasking environment. If you’re not one to fall into either of these categories, then odds are you can do with a single core processor for now, or at least until more software patches bring support for dual cores to your fingertips.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s see what results we find when we pit three of Intel’s top processors against each other. We’re talking the Pentium D 820, Extreme Edition 840, and of course the Extreme Edition 955. These results should give us an accurate impression of processor vs. processor performance on an identical platform, that of the i975X chipset. Enough talk; let’s see what this processor can do.

[title]..:: Review Conclusion ::..[/title]

On a performance basis, I’m quite impressed with what Intel has brought to the table. The Extreme Edition 955 brings back to long lost 1066MHz FSB, and adds an additional 1MB of cache for each processor core. This brings the total level 2 caches to 4MB or 2MB per processing core. The amazing thing is, even with all of the additional transistors requires for this doubling of the level 2 cache, Intel still managed to cram it all onto a core smaller than that of Smithfield.

When our results weren’t hampered by an aging graphics card, we saw that Intel has made some clear strides in performance with the Extreme Edition 955. Performance gains of 18%+ aren’t something you often see in the world of processors. Remember, other than the added cache, this is the same processor as Smithfield. Clearly, the resumption of support for 1066MHz FSB, along with the added 1MB of cache per core has helped boost Intel up a rung or three in the world of performance processors.

On a power consumption basis, we’re still seeing Intel kick out processors that run hot, and swallow power. The Extreme Edition 955 does make some small strides over the Extreme Edition 840, but it wouldn’t be readily obvious to the average Joe merely due to the heat that the processor is still kicking out. With any luck, we’re going to see this problem get a big kick in the arse with the upcoming “Conroe” cores.

Overall, if you’re in the market for an upgrade I’d have to say to stick it out for “Conroe” variants if at all possible. The Extreme Edition 955 is the fastest Intel processor we’ve handled to date, and when paired with a proper graphics setup there’s no doubt that Intel has closed the gap between itself and rival AMD. In our case, we were limited to the gains we saw thanks to an “older” graphics processor. If you’re simply looking for a mid-term upgrade to wait until “Conroe” or after when the prices come down, then I’d suggest looking at the Pentium D’s. If you’re looking to upgrade now, and want one of the fastest processors available, then by all means give the Extreme Edition 955 a good, long look. Until next time, thanks for reading!

[source]www.mbreview.com, Stephen Cooper, January 31st, 2005[/source]


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