updated 05:00 pm EST, Tue March 6, 2012
Intel Xeon E5-2600 given official arrival
Intel ended one of the longest waits for one of its processors in recent memory on Tuesday by launching and detailing the Xeon E5-2600. Its mid-range server and workstation chip is a superset of the much newer Sandy Bridge-E architecture and can carry a full eight cores (up from six) and handle a much larger 768GB memory ceiling. The extra cores, along with a shrink from 45 to 32 nanometers and new AVX support, should make it about 80 percent faster than the Xeon 5600 it replaces.
The smaller process contributes to a theoretically 50 percent more efficient design. Equally new for Xeons in this class are PCI Express 3.0 support, an interface controller built directly into the chip, and a Data Direct I/O format that lets peripherals talk directly to the processor's cache.
A total of 16 chips kick off the line. With the exception of two entry quad-core 1.8GHz and 2.4GHz models, all of them support Turbo Boost to dynamically overclock some cores. These use 80W of power and carry 10MB of cache. Six-core versions range from 2GHz to 2.9GHz, carry 15MB of cache, and typically use 95W of power. Eight-core processors have the same clock speeds but a larger 20MB of cache and usually between 95W to 135W of power.
Special versions exist, such as a low-power 2GHz six-core edition that uses 60W of power and a comparable 1.8GHz eight-core version using 80W of power. One dual-core 3GHz edition and a 3.3GHz quad-core edition exist for those who prioritize speed over parallelism.
Bulk prices range from as little as the $198, 1.8GHz quad Xeon to $2,050 for the 2.9GHz, eight-core model. Dozens of companies have committed to shipping E5-based systems, including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, IBM, Lenovo, and Supermicro. Many of them are launching soon, if not immediately.
Conspicuously absent from the mentions is Apple, although this is believed more a reflection of Apple keeping its intentions secret than a lack of plans. Apple's near two-year wait for a Mac Pro refresh has been dictated almost exclusively by the lack of a replacement for the 2010-era Xeon 5600. All updates to the Xeon between the 2010 Mac Pro and now have been either low-end chips like the E3 or server-focused chips like the E7.
Apple has been giving signs that the Mac Pro is near an update, although it might not necessarily update in March given the imminent iPad refresh and problems with publicity and logistics it would create.