Intel's Penryn Chips Offer Speed Boost To Business Apps, Games, And Video - InformationWeek

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Hardware & Infrastructure

Intel's Penryn Chips Offer Speed Boost To Business Apps, Games, And Video

The 16 desktop and server processors are the first built with Intel's 45-nanometer manufacturing process.

Intel on Monday introduced 16 microprocessors that are expected to deliver significantly more horsepower to businesses that need an across-the-board performance boost for servers and to consumers who play PC games or enjoy editing and playing video.

The desktop and server processors are the first built with Intel's 45-nanometer manufacturing process, which delivers twice the transistor density of previous chips built on the company's 65-nm process. The higher density translates into 820 million transistors for Intel quad-core processors.

More transistors mean faster performance, which Intel manages to contain within the same power envelope as previous products. The latest processors, code-named Penryn, will be sold under the Xeon and Core 2 Extreme brands for servers and high-end desktops, respectively.

The new processors offer Intel business customers an across-the-board performance boost for server-side business applications, Jim McGregor, analyst for In-Stat, told InformationWeek. "These new products can really improve what businesses have," McGregor said. "They pretty much span the gamut of performance."

Intel is likely to sell the majority of the new products for use in servers, but the processors also will be useful to people who work with video on their PCs or workstations, Richard Doherty, president of market research firm Envisioneering, said. The computer industry as a whole is selling an increasing number of desktops and notebooks optimized for video, and Intel is gradually delivering the muscle to turn today's jerky, low-quality online video into smooth-running pictures that could someday become high-quality, screen-size images.

Reflecting the trend toward better quality video on the Web, YouTube has increased the limit of file uploads to 100 Mbytes, which is enough for a short, high-definition video, Doherty said. "More and more consumers are slowly becoming producers of video, editing it on the PC, and uploading it to the Web. For those tasks, you need more horsepower."

On the business side, Intel's faster chips would be useful in running and producing training videos, which is also a growing market.

Intel's latest high-desktop processor is officially called the Core 2 Extreme QX9650. The quad-core chip's enhancements for hardcore gamers and media enthusiasts include a larger L2 cache and support for Intel's SSE4, which comprises 47 new media instructions that speed up video encoding for high-definition and photo manipulation. Software makers supporting the new instruction set include Adobe, Microsoft, and Symantec.

Computers makers have already introduced upcoming workstations that will use Intel's new chip. Those companies include Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo.

The remaining 15 new Xeon processors are dual-core and quad-core for servers. The dozen quad-core products have clock speeds from 2 GHz to 3.2 GHz, and front side bus speeds of up to 1600 Mhz and cache sizes of 12 Mbytes. The three dual-core chips have clock speeds up to 3.4GHz, a FSB of up to 1600 MHz, and cache sizes of 6 Mbytes.

Pricing for the Xeon processors range from $177 to $1,279 in quantities of 1,000. The Core 2 Extreme QX9650 is priced at $999 in quantities of 1,000. Depending on the model, the processors are available either today or within 45 days.

Intel is ahead of rival Advanced Micro Devices in delivering 45-nm processors. The latter company is not expected to deliver such chips until next year. Both companies, however, offer quad-core and dual-core server and desktop processors.

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