Intel Unleashes a ‘Skulltrail’ of Power

Who in the world would want a $10,000 PC? How about someone doing heavy-duty content creation? Intel’s new Dual Socket Extreme Desktop Platform, code-named “Skulltrail,” targets customers that leave the computer running overnight.

It offers two quad-core 3.2GHz processors, up to 8GB of memory and four PCI Express slots to run four video cards. It’s the first dual-processor desktop board from Intel that Kelt Reeves, president and founder of high-end PC maker Falcon Northwest, can remember seeing.

“If you’re one of the people who can make use of eight cores, there’s nothing else like it — it’s a monster,” he told “It’s kind of a niche product, and not many people will use all eight cores.”

Reeves predicted customers that use CAD or do heavy Photoshop work will save many hours of rendering time. “For everyone else, it’s an incredible waste of thousands of dollars,” he said.

The motherboard is a pricey $649, the processors are $1,499 each, and the memory is fully buffered DIMM, which is more expensive and power-consuming than DDR memory, a consequence of Intel being forced to use its workstation chipset in this platform to achieve dual-processor support.

Intel said the platforms will start at $6,000, but Reeves said initial pricing estimates by his staff are closer to $10,000.

Intel spokesman George Alfs said the platform’s strength is in video encoding. “Video encoding, 3D rendering, any high-end app that can take advantage of four threads will really shine on this,” he said.

Intel introduced the new platform at the Game Developer Conference, taking place this week in San Francisco.

Robert A. Duffy, programming director for id Software, a developer of first-person games, said in a statement that id reduced content creation from four hours to 20 minutes. “Long term this translates to better games on the market faster than previously possible,” he said.

Skulltrail will run on Windows and Linux. While it will support four video cards, they won’t all run in parallel. Video cards can run only two cards together in parallel, a mode called scalable link interface. Four cards allows for multiple monitor support.

Reeves said one customer wanted to build a machine using four quad monitor cards so he could run 16 monitors at once.

That unusual request aside, Reeves isn’t sure how many of these he’ll sell, even to the hard-core gamers with money to burn. “It’s going to have to find its customers because it’s not the right product for a lot of people — but if you’re doing any rendering and have to sit there waiting for something to render, this cuts hours and hours from your rendering time.”

The Dual Socket Extreme Desktop Platform is available now from specialty OEMS such as Falcon.

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