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High performance system designer Velocity Micro said Monday it would offer its clients systems running overclocked Intel Pentium Extreme Edition and possibly Intel Pentium D dual-core processors in late Q2 2005, while Intel Corp. had supplied media with the first samples of its dual-core products to give the industry an idea about performance of such central processing units.

Available Late Q2, Says Velocity Micro

“Available in late Q2 of this year, Velocity Micro will offer several new dual core based DCX systems with Velocity Micro's exclusive LiquiCool fluid cooling system… Velocity Micro will ship systems at the processor's default 3.2GHz, as well as systems performance tuned by the company with the addition of liquid cooling to run at 3.6GHz, 3.8GHz, and 4.0GHz,” Velocity Micro said in a statement.

Intel Corp. indicated plans to introduce dual-core microprocessors for desktops, servers and notebooks in mid-2004. The general details about such processors have been disclosed, but still there is an intrigue behind peculiarities of such chips.

Intel Pentium D – Intel’s Most Advanced Desktop Chip

Intel’s first family of dual-core chips for desktops originally code-named Smithfield will be sold as Intel Pentium D 800-series as well as Intel Pentium Extreme Edition family. Initial Intel Pentium D 800-series central processing units are likely to use 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus, integrate 2MB (1MB per core) L2 cache and utilize LGA775 form-factor. The dual-core desktop processors will be made using 90nm process technology, each processing engine will use the same architecture with the current Pentium 4 “Prescott” chip, however, the new central processing unit will feature “arbitration logic that will balance bus transactions between the two CPUs.” All desktop dual-core chips are likely to sport EM64T, Virtualization, XD bit as well as Enhanced Intel SpeedStep technologies.

Intel is expected to disable the Hyper-Threading technology on its mainstream dual-core desktop chips, leaving the capability to process up to four threads simultaneously for its Pentium Extreme Edition chips that will feature two cores and will use 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus. Earlier it was reported that the Pentium Extreme Edition chips will use 1066MHz processor system bus.

Having two processing engines instead of one Intel Pentium D and Intel Pentium Extreme Edition processors will be capable of running many applications at the same time more efficiently than the Pentium 4, but the latter is likely to have advantage over the former in single-threaded apps because of higher clock-speeds, as the first dual-core microprocessors from Intel Corp. will work at 2.80 – 3.20GHz speeds, much lower compared to 3.80GHz of single-core processors.

New Mainboards Required

Intel’s dual-core desktop products are projected to have TDP of around 130W, while currently available infrastructure is designed to support processors with thermal design power of up to 115W, which will not allow the dual-core Intel Pentium D chips to operate with the vast majority of today’s mainboards, according to some makers. While some very advanced mainboards may support the Pentium D processors, such support is unlikely to be official.

Intel’s i945- and i955X-series core-logic products are expected to bring certain performance enhancements for the forthcoming platforms based on single-core or dual-core microprocessors, such as support for DDR2 667MHz memory. It is expected that Intel’s dual-core desktop products will be commercially launched along with i945- and i955X-series chipsets.

Volumes – Not Significant, Says Intel

Smithfield’s die size is about 206 square millimeters, which is considered as too large for mainstream processors by analysts. Intel also does not seem to be pinning a lot of hopes on the Smithfield when it comes to volume.

“In terms of volume and magnitude, it’s not going to be as significant as last year,” said Tom Kilroy, president of Intel Americas in an interview with a web-site, referring to last year’s Prescott and Northwood processor transitions.

By bringing its dual-core desktop chips to the market a quarter earlier than expected the chip giant Intel Corp. receives a competitive advantage over the arch-rival Advanced Micro Devices, who is expected to bring out its dual-core desktop products later this year. Some sources reported that Intel’s dual-core products are claimed to be relatively affordable: $241, $316 or $530 – depending on the speed-bin and model – for 820 (2.80GHz), 830 (3.00GHz) or 840 (3.20GHz) chips respectively. Pricing of dual-core Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors is yet unclear, but typically Intel asks system designers to pay $999 for the top-of-the-range Extreme Edition chip.

“The one thing we’re sure to do is build enough parts to meet market demand,” Mr. Kilroy added.

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