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Intel's Latest Embedded Xeons Join the Penryn Party

Less than one year after its first foray into Xeon-based embedded chips, Intel has refreshed the line with newer processors and a new chipset that drastically improve performance and cut some of the power draw.

As part of the upgrade, Intel is promising licensees a seven-year life cycle support program, considerably longer than the lifespan of a typical process, which typically runs about 18 months. But the embedded market is more change-averse and typically wants commitments to product and part sameness for five to ten years, according to Intel.

The new processors are based on the 45nm Penryn design and consist of the 5200 series (dual core) and 5400 (quad core), with power draws ranging from 35 to 80 watts and running at clock speeds ranging from 2.13 GHz to 3GHz. They are accompanied by the 5100 Memory Controller Hub (MCH) chipset, which offer 29 percent more performance at a 23 percent lower power draw.

The embedded chips come just a few months after Intel introduced the Penryn-based Xeons, and the company is trying to reduce the gap in introduction times. "There was considerable lag between when Intel would launch a new product in the PC and server space versus the embedded space," said Doug Davis, vice president of the digital enterprise group and general manager of the embedded and communications group at Intel.

"We've been able to shrink the launch between PC and servers and embedded," he added. "When we launched 45 nanometer, the first thing customers asked is when will we support it in embedded."

It's safe to say that an embedded quad-core Xeon will not be going into a smart phone or handheld PC. It's being aimed at things like medical imaging, telco processing and other intense processing tasks.

"Given they are Xeons, they are really aimed at performance applications. So they are not as power-concerned or power sensitive," said Davis. For customers who need something below the 35-watt range, they are best advised to consider Intel's Silverthorne processor.