Fastest Intel Quad-Core Ever, QX9770, Coming In Early 2008 - InformationWeek
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12/3/2007
03:19 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Fastest Intel Quad-Core Ever, QX9770, Coming In Early 2008

The latest addition to Intel's Core 2 Extreme processor family will hit the streets in the first quarter of next year, in the form of the ultra-fast QX9770.

The latest addition to Intel's Core 2 Extreme processor family will hit the streets in the first quarter of next year, in the form of the ultra-fast QX9770.The processor will come in at the top end of Intel's quad-core line up, pushing both clock speed and price to new highs. The QX9770 will run at 3.2 GHz, slightly faster than the current top-of-the-line 3.0-GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850.

The faster clock of the QX9770 won't come cheap. It'll be priced higher than the QX6850, which itself lists for $999 (in 1k tray units) and sells on the consumer market for about $1,100 a pop.

Word is that the QX9770, which is sampling now to select customers, is part of an Intel effort to take the steam out of AMD's new Phenom desktop quad-core line.

What's really going on here is that Intel and AMD are indeed engaged in a quad-core war. However, the battlefield is shaping up somewhat differently from what I predicted. Back in July, I foresaw a bruising price war between the two chip companies, as they played what I expected would be a game of musical price cuts.

Instead, the battle has been more about technology. In AMD's case, it has used the new Phenoms to bring its new 10h architecture to the desktop. It's also got five fresh desktop quads up its sleeve. Two were introduced in November -- the 2.2-GHz Phenom X4 9500 and 2.3-GHz 9600. They'll be joined by two faster cousins in the first quarter -- the 2.4-GHz Phenom X4 9700 and the 2.6-GHz Phenom X4 9900. Then a 3.0-GHz Phenom will follow in the second quarter of 2008.

On the downside, AMD's new devices are fabricated at 65-nm. That's where Intel took advantage of the situation, debuting its first 45-nm processors, code-named Penryn, in November.

Now, Intel is showing that there's a lot of runway ahead for Penryn, even in advance of Intel's next micro-architectural upgrade, which is due in 2008. (This is what Intel calls it's "Tick-Tock" product roll-out cycle; a technology upgrade one year followed by an architecture refresh the next year. The leapfrogging intros presumably continue ad infinitum, or at least until Moore's Law reaches its limit.

OK, so there's just one thing I want to know. Intel CEO Paul Otellini famously forced his company to make its "right-hand turn" in 2004. That's when he realized that single-core designs were becoming too power hungry -- a planned 3.0+ GHz processor would have dissipated more than 150W. Dual-core devices were seen as a way of delivering ever-more throughput while reining in power consumption (because you could do two 2.0-GHz cores with at, say, 120W.)

So now we have a 3.2-GHz Core 2 Extreme coming up soon, at an expected power budget of 130W. This would've been impossible in 2004. What this says is that the "right-hand turn" wasn't so much about a high clock speed being impossible always, but about it being impossible at 90-nm or 65-nm. At 45-nm, where gate voltages and currents are lower, and thus overall power is down, it is doable. OK, now I understand.

FYI, here are some interesting slides on AMD's Phenom, followed by one on Intel's QX9650:



Slide from AMD's Phenom quad-core processor and Spider graphics platform announcement on Nov. 19, 2007. (Click picture to enlarge, and to see more Phenom slides.)



Slide from AMD's Phenom quad-core processor and Spider graphics platform announcement on Nov. 19, 2007. (Click picture to enlarge, and to see more Spider slides.)

Here's the Intel slide, on the Core 2 Extreme QX6850. Remember that the QX9770 has many of the same features -- both are fabricated at 45-nm -- except it has a faster clock (3.2 GHz versus 3.0 GHz) and a faster front-side bus (1600 MHz versus 1333 MHz).



Intel's first 45-nm desktop quad core processor, the QX9650. (Click picture to enlarge.)

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