Dawn Of Dual Core - InformationWeek

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1/20/2006
12:25 PM
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Dawn Of Dual Core

Intel and AMD will introduce more of these powerful processors this year as they go mainstream in a big way

This group of CPUs will replace the original Pentium D 800 series, but it appears that the dual-die downside to the 800 series also will be present in Presler processors: The 900-series CPU cores still will exist on two separate dies. This means that each CPU will be unable to communicate or share status or cache information without first going through the front side bus.

Thankfully, this will change in the second half of the year.

Intel's dual cores initially disappointed

Intel's dual cores initially disappointed
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Sometime around late summer, Intel will begin to roll out one of the most important processors in its history. Based on a 65-nanometer fabricating process, the Intel Next-Generation Microarchitecture should boast increased power efficiency, decreased temperatures, and increased processing power via more tightly integrated CPU cores.

This future architecture is based entirely on Intel's next-generation mobile processor, code-named Merom, which is being developed with both mobile (read "low power consumption") and dual- or multicore features.

Intel's goal for Merom, scheduled for release during the second half of 2006, is to combine the Pentium 4 architecture with the increased processing power and thermal efficiencies of the Pentium M. The result will be a number of new mobile CPUs, including several Merom-based dual-core releases in the second half of the year.

It's no surprise, then, to hear that the Merom-based architecture will be the foundation of all future Intel processors--mobile, desktop, and enterprise. Currently, Intel uses Pentium 4 and Pentium D NetBurst architectures for desktop/enterprise, and Pentium M for notebooks. One of the key distinguishing characteristics of Merom-based desktop CPUs is that Intel is removing some of the power constraints that exist in the mobile version of the Merom architecture to ratchet up performance.

It's highly likely that in 2007 we'll even see quad-core processors based on this platform. Intel is said already to have quad- and eight-core processors in the works, code-named Kentsfield and Yorkfield, respectively.

In 2006, you can expect to see two desktop CPUs based on this new architecture. The first, code-named Conroe, will be a Socket 775 processor featuring two cores and a shared 4-Mbyte L2 cache. This shared cache is a substantial improvement over Intel's current-generation chips, as is another element of the new design that will allow the separate L1 caches on each core to communicate with and even transfer data to the other.

The result will be significantly increased processor performance. That's exciting. Also excit-ing are the aggressive levels of power management Intel is building into this line.

Allendale will come on the heels of Conroe and will feature two cores but only a 2-Mbyte shared L2 cache. A new Intel chipset--i965, code-named Broadwater--will be released alongside Conroe and Allendale. Speculation that the Conroe, Merom, and Woodcrest (the enterprise version) processors would mark the end of the Pentium brand and the beginning of a new one appeared to be confirmed when Intel said that its new mobile processors would have the Core and Core Duo monikers.

AMD's Private Plans
While Intel has been extremely vocal about its plans, AMD has been surprisingly quiet. So quiet, in fact, that we had to dig deep to gather information regarding its upcoming processors and new architectures.

AMD won't be switching to a 65-nanometer fabricating process for its CPUs this year. Although it has revealed the development of 65-nanometer manufacturing technology with IBM, it's unlikely that AMD will be able to retool its plants to implement the new process with this year's CPU releases. AMD's CPU line will be "substantially converted to 65-nanometer technology by mid-2007," according to an AMD spokesperson. Given that, it's probable that the company won't release a new CPU architecture this year, either.

It appears this year that AMD will focus on two strategic concepts. First, it will integrate new virtualization and security technologies into its existing CPU lines. Second, in order to gain some ground on Intel's dominant Pentium M and upcoming mobile processors, AMD will focus much of its effort on a big push for its Turion 64 mobile line.

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