Intel's move to their 65nm process has gone extremely well.  We've had 65nm Presler, Cedar Mill and Yonah samples for the past couple of months now and they have been just as good as final, shipping silicon.  Just a couple of months ago we previewed Intel's 65nm Pentium 4 and showcased their reduction in power consumption as well as took an early look at overclocking potential of the chips. 

Intel's 65nm Pentium 4s will be the last Pentium 4s to come out of Santa Clara and while we'd strongly suggest waiting to upgrade until we've seen what Conroe will bring us, there are those who can't wait another six months, and for those who are building or buying systems today, we need to find out if Intel's 65nm Pentium 4 processors are any more worthwhile than the rather disappointing chips that we had at 90nm. 

The move to 90nm for Intel was highly anticipated, but it could not have been any more disappointing from a performance standpoint.  In a since abandoned quest for higher clock speeds, Intel brought us Prescott at 90nm with its 31 stage pipeline - up from 20 stages in the previous generation Pentium 4s.  Through some extremely clever and effective engineering, Prescott actually wasn't any slower than its predecessors, despite the increase in pipeline stages.  What Prescott did leave us with, however, was a much higher power bill.  Deeply pipelined processors generally consume a lot more power, and Prescott did just that. 

Intel tried to minimize the negative effects of Prescott as much as possible through technologies like their Enhanced Intel SpeedStep (EIST).  However, at the end of the day, the fastest Athlon 64 consumed less power under full load than the slowest Prescott at idle.  Considering that most PCs actually spend the majority of their time idling, this was truly a letdown from Intel. 

With 65nm, the architecture of the chips won't change at all - in fact, the single-core 65nm Pentium 4s based on the Cedar Mill core will be identical to the current Pentium 4 600 series that we have today (with the inclusion of Intel's Virtualization Technology).  So with no architectural changes, the power consumption at 65nm should be lower than at 90nm.  As we found in our first article on Intel's 65nm chips, power consumption did indeed go down quite a bit; however, it's still not low enough to be better than AMD.  It will take Conroe before Intel can offer a desktop processor with lower power consumption than AMD's 90nm Athlon 64 line. 

In an odd move, just before the end of 2005, Intel is introducing their first 65nm processor.  Not the Cedar Mill based Pentium 4 and not even the Presler based Pentium D, but rather the Presler based Pentium Extreme Edition 955. 

The Presler core is Intel's dual-core 65nm successor to Smithfield, which as you will remember was Intel's first dual-core processor.  Presler does actually offer one architectural improvement over Smithfield and that is the use of a 2MB L2 cache per core, up from 1MB per core in Smithfield.  Other than that, Presler is pretty much a die-shrunk version of Smithfield. 

With 2MB cache on each core, the transistor count of Presler has gone up a bit.  While Smithfield weighed in at a whopping 230M transistors, Presler is now up to 376M.  The move to 65nm has actually made the chip smaller at 162 mm2, down from 206 mm2.  With a smaller die size, Presler is actually cheaper for Intel to make than Smithfield, despite having twice the cache.  Equally impressive is that Cedar Mill, the single core version, measures in at a meager 81 mm2

The Extreme Edition incarnation of Presler brings back support for the 1066MHz FSB, which you may remember was lost with the original move to dual-core.  Given that both cores on the chip have to share the same bus, more FSB bandwidth will always help performance.

The Pentium Extreme Edition 955 runs at 3.46GHz (1066MHz FSB), thus giving it a clock speed advantage over all of Intel's other dual-core processors.  And as always, the EE chip offers Hyper Threading support on each of its two cores allowing the chip to handle a maximum of four threads at the same time.  Since it's an Extreme Edition chip, the 955 will be priced at $999.  If you're curious about the cheaper, non-Extreme versions of Presler, here is Intel's 65nm dual-core roadmap for 2006:

Intel Dual Core Desktop
CPU Core Clock FSB L2 Cache
??? Conroe ??? ??? 4MB
??? Conroe ??? ??? 2MB
950 Presler 3.4GHz 800MHz 2x2MB
940 Presler 3.2GHz 800MHz 2x2MB
930 Presler 3.0GHz 800MHz 2x2MB
920 Presler 2.8GHz 800MHz 2x2MB

As you can see, the Extreme Edition 955 will be the first, but definitely not the only dual-core 65nm processor out in the near future, so don't let the high price tag worry you. The remaining 900 series Pentium D chips should come with prices much closer to the equivalent 800 series.

Power Consumption and The Test


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  • skunkbuster - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link

    cramitpal is that you? Reply
  • coldpower27 - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link

    This is the Pentium Extreme Edition of course it's price is going to be 999US.

    If you want cheaper Presler cores, wait for the Pentium D 920 to 950 line to com out in Mid January.
  • Betwon - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link

    INQ says Presler 920 will be about 240$.

    It is very interesting that PD820 defeat FX-57 in a SMP game.
  • phaxmohdem - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link


    It is pretty much a toss-up at this point, but we'd recommend sticking with AMD for now and re-evaluating Intel's offerings when Conroe arrives.

    Let's recap, the X2 4800+ was ahead in most tests, and at worst could probably be called the 955 EE's equivilent....

    955EE = $999
    4800+ = ~$785

    Yeah, I'd definately recommend "sticking with AMD for now and re-evaluating Intel's offerings when Conroe arrives."

    Did anyone else notice how the lowly 3800+ did better in most gaming scenarios?

    955EE = $999
    3800+ = ~$315

    Tasty :)
  • GhandiInstinct - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link

    LOL, honestly your post is the only necessary post here. It compares and contrats the two perfectly in terms of which is a better buy, given the reader has seen all of the benchmarks in which the 4800 beats the 955EE.

    Intel just can't win because of EGO.
  • Anemone - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link

    Kudos because no matter where you sat personally you seemed to have called the shots fairly. I'd agree with the conclusion as well, that you are either Conroe or A64, that the P4 is an overdue dead end. It performs well, but it is hot and uses lots of electricity to do so. Overclocking wasn't needed because, quite frankly the X2 chips oc too, and you'd find they probably do it better.

    Socket M2 is again, something you "should" wait for if you can, as is Conroe. These are heavy recomendations, you really would be very smart to wait for these two things. Barring that, given the better of two bad options (meaning you have to upgrade now when you should be waiting), AMD is the better choice, partially for the power consumption, partially for the "less of a dead end than a P4" issue.

    Still, heavy, heavy emphasis on "you should wait", as a complete changeover is going on with both AMD and Intel and your ability to perform minor upgrades 1-2 years from now will depend on waiting patiently for a few more months.

  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link

    Socket M2 doesn't appear to be anything special. Why wait 6 months for a 5% performance boost and a RAM change? Just like waiting for Prescott ended up being much ado about nothing, M2 isn't going to be wildly different from today's 939 chips. Get a good socket 939 system with an X2 and SLI, and you should be set for at least 18 months. Reply
  • Calin - Tuesday, January 3, 2006 - link

    I don't find SLI important - except for the possibility to run two top of the line video cards. And increased speed won't come from higher RAM speed - not so much anyway in order to keep you waiting.
    I just wonder how long will the Socket 939 be kept - considering that the value line is the cheaper Socket 754 (cheaper in having a single memory channel, so half as many lines to memory banks). Or if Socket 754 will be abandoned before Socket 939, or if Socket M2/2 (single channel DDR2 memory) will appear.
  • nserra - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link

    Two cores on the same packing is an excellent idea!

    Will amd do that with m2?
    Could lower the dual core price and even at 90nm could put 2 dual core processors on the same packing and build a 4 core processor (fake one, but 4 cores there).
  • ViRGE - Friday, December 30, 2005 - link

    The problem with 2 physical cores is that you're forgoing any sort of on-die communication benefits by doing so. It's certainly cheaper for Intel to make things this way, but it's a poor way to go for performance, as it makes it harder for the cores to quickly send data to each other and share resources. It's certainly a valid solution(especially given how Intel didn't have any inter-core communication even when both cores were on the same die), but ultimately a combined die for inter-core communication is superior for performance and scaling. Reply

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