updated 07:45 am EDT, Tue March 16, 2010
Intel ships 32nm Xeon, Core i7 chips
Intel on Tuesday formally launched its first six-core workstation and server processors. The Xeon 5600 has been made on the same 32 nanometer process as the Core i7-980X and give more performance without consuming more power as a result. Performance gains range from 10 percent in single tasks that don't use the extra two cores to as much as 60 percent for heavily threaded apps, but even the flagship, 3.33GHz X5680 consumes the same 130W as its predecessor.
The X5680 and other 32nm Xeons launched today are considered more secure and support both hardware AES encryption as well as Trusted Execution to prevent rogue code or privacy breaches without draining away performance. Like most other 32nm chips, they support Turbo Boost to overclock to as much as 3.6GHz (again on the X5680) and Hyperthreading that lets a single six-core chip behave like a 12-core part under optimized conditions.
Apart from the 3.33GHz model, lower-clocked 2.66GHz, 2.8GHz and 2.93GHz chips also carry six cores and consume a lower-still 95W of power. A low-voltage 2.26GHz six-core Xeon uses just 60W of energy, while quad-core chips have been given a wide spread and range from 1.86GHz at 40W to 3.46GHz at 130W.
Systems based on the new Xeons should be available within the next 45 days, with availability depending on the computer builder; Dell, HP and others have been named. Although the initial lineup is primarily tailored to servers, Intel has confirmed that workstation versions should be available soon, including a Xeon 3600 series that tops out at the same 3.33GHz, six cores and 130W whose limitation to single-processor systems will keep its price down to $999 in bulk. Apple is most likely to use the workstation 5600 and 3600 chips in upcoming Mac Pro and Xserve systems.
The company has also confirmed that it's shipping the 3.33GHz Core i7-980X both as a stand-alone chip and as part of computers like the Alienware Area-51 ALX.