RealTime IT News

Intel's 'Extreme' Supports 64-Bit For Desktops

With chip advances from AMD and IBM on its tail, Intel burst into the 64-bit desktop market today with a jazzed up version of its Pentium processor family.

After nearly a year of saying the desktop was not ready for anything but 32-bit applications, the company said it is now shipping five Pentium 4 chips with its Extended Memory 64 Technology (Intel EM64T). The processors are enhanced with HT and EM64T technology courtesy of Intel's 925 and 915 Express chipset family.

The five new chips include P4 Extreme Edition (EE) running at 3.73 GHz and four P4 6xx sequence processors, all of which support Intel's Hyper-Threading (HT) Technology. Intel said it plans to ship EM64T on versions of every newly introduced Intel desktop processor including the company's Intel Celeron D processor lines later this year.

Intel has been steadfast in its claims that 64-bit processing is best reserved for the high-end Itanium systems. But pressure from AMD's 64-bit Athlon family and the introduction of the Cell processor, IBM's joint project with Toshiba and Sony, changed that approach.

Intel said it now identifies the increasing number of customers that are using their PCs for playing games or editing digital video and images. And with an architecture that allows for 1 terabyte or higher of physical memory addressing, Intel said it can help take advantage of future software advances in high-definition video, audio and 3D visualization.

Rob Crooke, Intel general manager of Desktop Marketing and Strategic Planning, said as software for the digital home and office matures and becomes more demanding, desktops with Intel EM64T are well-timed to take advantage of emerging new usage models.

The new processors will support the upcoming Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition operating system as well as next year's anticipated release of Microsoft's next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn.

"We are working closely to deliver a robust 64-bit client platform that will help customers realize powerful new 64-bit capabilities while maintaining their investment in 32-bit applications," Brad Goldberg, general manager of the Windows Product Marketing Group at Microsoft, said in a statement.

As previous ly reported, Intel has been working hard to refresh its server and desktop processors to line up with its 64-bit roadmap. In addition to upgrading its Pentium and Celeron brands, Intel said it will ship a Xeon multiprocessor code-named Potomac with 8MB L3 cache and its Twin Castle chipset this spring. Intel is also preparing its 64-bit ambitions for dual-core products for its Extreme Edition and Pentium processor-class families during the second quarter of 2005.

The Pentium 4 Processor EE 3.73 GHz is the first Prescott-based EE model that also features the Prescott 2M core and its 16K L1/2-MB L2 core architecture. This is a bit different than prior Extreme Edition cores, which featured 512K of L2 cache along with 2-MB of L3. This is an LGA775 processor with the exact same physical specifications as the Pentium 4 600 Series models, although it does run on the 1066 MHz bus. Intel has turned the page on the Extreme Edition philosophy, and has basically released a higher-clocked, higher bus speed Pentium 4 600 series under the EE brand.

The Intel Pentium 4 Processor 6xx sequence comes in speeds of up to 3.60 GHz, features an 800MHz system bus, a doubled L2 cache of 2MB, and Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST). Windows XP Service Pack 2 supports the power-saving capability as well as Intel's Execute Disable Bit technology offers improved protection from certain types of viruses.

The new chips have created something of a logjam at the top of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition list, however. With its current Pentium 4 running at 3.46 GHz EE selling and performing to Intel's expectations, the new P4 EE chips are expected to stay atop the heap as there is still no 3.8 GHz equivalent.

Vince Freeman contributed to this report