Articles: CPU

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The transition to dual-core architecture in desktop Intel processors is expected to allow this company to significantly increase the performance of its solutions. Moreover, the effect from this performance upsurge will remain there for the next few years, until four- and more-core architectures arrive into the marketplace.

Since Intel simply has no time (or maybe no desire) to develop the new architecture, which would be better fit for the dual-core processors, Smithfield solution will be based on two Prescott cores manufactured with 90nm production technology. Smithfield will actually consist of two independent Prescott cores combined on a single silicon die. In fact it means that each of the two Smithfield cores will use its own execution devices as well as its own independent 1MB L2 cache. The CPU will also feature its own arbiter, implementing the dual-core processor interface with the only 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus. Since almost all the Prescott processor functional blocks will be duplicated in the upcoming Smithfield solution, and there will be one more extra arbiter added to them, the Smithfield die size will be not 2 but 2.1 times bigger than that of the Prescott.

This tremendous die size increase will automatically result into the increase in the heat dissipation of this CPU. However, the heat limitations imposed by the Intel’s LGA775 systems imply that the maximum thermal design power of Smithfield CPUs cannot go beyond 130W. This way, just like the dual-core AMD processors, the new dual-core solutions from Intel will work at lower clock frequency than the similar single-core ones. As far as we know today, the maximum working frequency of the Smithfield processors will make 3.2GHz, which is 16% lower than the maximum frequency a Prescott based CPU can actually work at.

However, it is pretty hard to claim that the performance of Smithfield based processors will exceed that of the single-core ones. AMD, for instance, has every right to claim a notable performance increase as a result of the transfer to dual-core processor architecture on single physical silicon, because they are planning to begin from the server and workstation market. The applications for this type of computer systems are initially developed for SMP-systems, which support multi-threading. As for the dual-core Smithfield processor, it is going to turn up in a totally different type of systems: regular desktops. And even though major operating systems for the desktop PCs have been supporting multi-threading for a long time now, far not all the applications really make use of it. The worst situation appears to be with games. There are few games out there that take real advantage of multi-threading, which can lead to the fact that Smithfield based CPUs will turn out slower than their single-core Prescott based predecessors in a number of desktop applications. In order to diminish the negative influence of this incident, Intel has even given up the launch of the 4.0GHz Prescott based Pentium 4 processor. However, as we assume this sacrifice is still unable to solve the problem.

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