Intel unveils 45nm Penryn chips

Intel unveils 45nm Penryn chips

Chipmaker claims 15-20 per cent performance leap

Intel will officially launch its 45nm Penryn processors on 12 November with a heavy focus on the enterprise.

The chipmaker will release 12 quad-core and three dual-core Xeon processors for servers, as well as a Core 2 Extreme chip for high-end PCs.

Additional models for desktop and notebook PCs are scheduled to follow by the first quarter of 2008.

Penryn chips will run 15 to 20 per cent faster on average than their predecessors, according to Boyd Davies, general manager for Intel's server platform.

Intel is focusing on the server market because business users have the highest performance demands.

"A lot of the advanced chips that we deliver appeal to the sever market," Davies said.

"It makes a lot of sense for our most advanced product to show up in the enterprise and enthusiast segments first."

Intel also plans to introduce three new server chipsets. The firm currently offers chipsets for regular servers and blade servers.

The new line-up has two chipsets for rack-mountable and blade servers for enterprises, a single-socket chipset for small businesses, and a dual-socket chipset for medium businesses.

The biggest change is found in the 5400 chipset that targets the high-performance computing space. Intel has increased the clock speed for the Front Side Bus, allowing faster data transfer between memory and processor.

The chipset also offers a 'snoop filter' that reduces bus traffic by monitoring data coherency. The chipset will offer a 50 to 60 per cent performance boost for high-performance computing applications, said Davies.

Intel had to overcome a significant design hurdle with its 45nm chips. As transistor sizes continue to shrink, chip components become so small that energy starts leaking through them, leading to a dramatic increase in overall energy consumption.

Intel revealed in January that it would start using Hafnium and other so-called High-K materials to achieve a reduction in power leakage. The technique allows Intel to keep using current-generation production techniques.

A consortium that includes IBM, AMD and other chip makers also claims to have succeeded at producing energy-efficient 45nm processors, but will not start shipping products until next year.

Intel's Penryn launch allows the chipmaker to reclaim the x86 performance crown from AMD.

Launched in September, AMD's quad-core Barcelona processor out-performed Intel's quad-core Xeon on several benchmarks. The largest gap showed on a benchmark for floating point calculations which are often used in scientific applications.

Floating point has traditionally been one of AMD's strong points. Intel revealed at its Developer Forum in September that Penryn would achieve a floating point score of 89.8, up four per cent on AMD's 86.3.