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Review: Intel Xeon 5160 'Woodcrest' CPU & Armari Magnetar X2

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 25 July 2006, 08:52

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

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HEXUS got down and dirty with Intel Core 2 Duo before and on its launch, marking the introduction of the Conroe processor core.

Conroe is an implementation of Intel's Core microarchitecture, not to be confused with the Core processors (Solo and Duo) bearing the same nomenclature. Core marks the wholesale replacement of Intel Netburst as the underlying processing core present in Intel's consumer CPUs, Intel leaving behind the race for megahertz in the pursuit of much higher per-clock and per-watt efficiency.

Without delving deep into an arch analysis, Core can retire 4 instructions per cycle, has a triplet of SSE units that are twice as wide as in Netburst, supports µOp fusion to push more instructions down the pipe, implements shared L2 cache for its cores and can not only reorder instructions but memory accesses too.

The triplet of main ALUs aren't instruction dupes, rather the first can issue branch instructions, the second MULs, the third ADDs, while maintaining an SSE unit per main ALU, in parallel with the load/store hardware mentioned earlier.

Essentially, the core is wider than Netburst, has much more pure floating point power, and the shared L2 cache allows cache-bound single-threaded applications to gain a nice speedup while the second core sits there doing not too much.

And in our analysis you saw that new microarch beat on AMD's current K8 core in CPU-bound tests, leaving Core 2 Duo CPUs with class-leading performance for the money, and frugal power draws to best AMD's perf-per-watt performances. HEXUS lead the world in publishing independent, hands-on analysis of Intel Core 2 Duo, however sometimes being first means that you don't have the luxury of time to investigate matters in as much detail as is ideal; therefore we refer you to an article on the Tech Report, published much later than HEXUS original take, and which seems to do a pretty good job of power draw testing.

It's those characteristics of high FP power and high perf-per-watt that has seen Intel target Core for server and workstation use, too. Woodcrest is the core name for the new Core-powered Xeon, looking almost exactly like Conroe on paper and physically too, but sliding into the 771-pin LGA socket rather than the 775-pin version on more mainstream consumer boards.

The new Xeons have new product numbering, too, and new supporting core logic which demands a new memory type, so there's lots to dig into. Let's dive right in as we seek to compare high-end Woodcrest Xeon 5160 versus AMD's champion two-socket Opteron, the 285.

Is Core enough to slay K8 in the workstation and server space, as it's demonstrably done for consumer PCs?