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Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor at 3.40GHz will be Intel’s only Extreme Edition chip for a while, as the company does not currently have plans to make processors with L3 cache using 90nm technology next year.

The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition microprocessors called as Pentium 4 XE or Pentium 4 EE by the hardware community are based on the 0.13 micron core designed for multi-processor servers called “Gallatin”. Originally announced in Q4 2002, Gallatin Xeon MP processors with large level three caches are generally expected to serve Intel’s IA32 MP servers till very late 2004 or early 2005.

Instead of producing server chips using a young 90nm fabrication technology, Intel will strengthen its MP family of 32-bit microprocessors with three introductions next year. In the first quarter of 2004  the Santa Clara, California-based semiconductor manufacturer will roll-out the Xeon MP processor with 4MB of L3 cache clocked at 3.0GHz. Moreover, in order to strengthen the overall family, the company is rumored to add 2.70GHz and 2.20GHz Xeon MP chips into the lineup. The Xeon MP 3.0GHz 4M part – presumably based on the Gallatin 4M core – will be Intel’s top IA32 offering for 4P/8P platforms and will be quoted at $3692. The 2.20GHz and 2.70GHz models will complement existing Xeon MP processors at 2.80GHz and 2.0GHz with 2MB L3 caches. The new parts will be priced at $1177 and $1980 respectively.

All new Xeon MP processors are drop-in compatible with existing 4P/8P IA32 infrastructure, such as applications based on ServerWorks GC-HE, GC-LE chipsets, using 400MHz Quad Pumped Bus.

Intel has not disclosed plans to launch Gallatin successor currently code-named Potomac earlier than the industry waits for it – the first quarter of 2005. Potomac will have faster PSB than current Xeon MP and something typical Xeon microprocessors lack in the majority of cases – L3 cache. Xeon DP chips code-named Nocona will have the same amount of cache memory as desktop Pentium 4 SSE3 “Prescott” processors – 1MB.

Since the main feature of Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors is the large level three cache, Intel will either have to develop another way to improve performance of its highest-end desktop processors, or to wait for Potomac with L3 if the company still has plans to continue its Extreme Edition line. Otherwise, it is very unlikely that there will be Extreme Edition processors in 2004 apart from 0.13 micron 3.20GHz and 3.40GHz models.

One of the ways to offset the impact of internal caches on CPU performance is to pump up the processor system bus speed (PSB). Since Intel declares support for dual-channel DDR-II memory at 533MHz, the company may have an opportunity to increase its Quad Pumped Bus performance to 1066MHz over 800MHz featured by Pentium 4 “Northwood” and “Prescott” processors. However, the company has not proclaimed plans to support 1066MHz QPB by its Grantsdale and Alderwood chipsets.

To sum up, Intel will hardly be able to make something new in Extreme Edition field in 2004 and will have to overclock it Pentium 4 SSE3 “Prescott” processors in LGA775 packaging to compete with AMD Athlon 64 FX chips featuring dual-channel memory and faster HyperTransport bus. On the other hand, AMD64 competitor may not ramp up its core-speed fast enough to stay on par with Intel because of 0.13 micron technology, while Prescott chips may once again ran into heat-dissipation issues that may prevent it from rapid frequency increase.


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