What about Quad Core?

Later this year Intel will be introducing pin compatible upgrades to its Core 2 and Xeon lines, except instead of two cores these processors will feature four.  Codenamed Kenstfield (Core 2) and Clovertown (Xeon), Intel's new quad-core processors will dramatically increase the amount of processing power you can have in a single system.  Given that the Mac Pro features two LGA-771 sockets, you could theoretically drop two Clovertown processors in there and you'd have an 8-core Mac Pro.

Without a doubt Apple will release a quad-core version of the Mac Pro, either by the end of this year or early next year, but are users who buy the Mac Pro today missing out?  While we're still a couple of months away from being able to test a retail Clovertown CPU in the Mac Pro, we wanted to see if the current engineering samples of the chip would work. 

We grabbed a pair of 2.4GHz Clovertown samples and tossed them in the system, and to our pleasure, they worked just fine.  Our samples used a 1066MHz FSB, although we're expecting the final chip to use a 1333MHz FSB, but the most important part of the test is that all 8 cores were detected and functional. 

We ran a handful of stability tests on the Mac Pro equipped with two Clovertowns and didn't encounter any crashes with the processors, so it would seem that Clovertown will work in the Mac Pro's motherboard.  We can't say with 100% certainty that you will be able to upgrade to Clovertown when it comes out, but so far the results are looking good. 

For the performance of Clovertown you'll have to wait a bit longer as we're not allowed to disclose it just yet, but we wanted to let you know that so far it's looking like you'll be able to upgrade your Mac Pro to 8 cores in the not too distant future.

We are expecting there to be a trade off between clock speed and number of cores with the move to Clovertown, meaning that you'll be able to find higher clocked dual core Xeons than the upcoming quad core models.  The current rumors suggest that on the desktop side, the highest clock speed quad core chip will be 2.66GHz while the fastest dual core CPU will run at 2.93GHz.  We'd expect a similar situation with Clovertown in the Xeon lineup, meaning that unless you have a way of really stressing 8 cores, you may be better off with 4 faster cores in your Mac Pro.  We definitely had a difficult time stressing 8 cores in the Mac Pro, but if you have a handful of well threaded, CPU intensive tasks then a pair of slower Clovertowns can easily outperform a pair of dual core Woodcrest based Xeons. 

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  • Corlissmedia - Thursday, December 9, 2010 - link

    I've been reading through a lot of these sites that discuss upgrading a 2006 Mac Pro with dual dual-core 2.66's to dual quad-core x5355's. I'm thinking of doing this upgrade also, but in researching the cpus, I've found that none of them support ECC memory, and all Mac Pros, as far as I know, have ECC memory. So how does that work????? Reply
  • Spawn4ever - Tuesday, August 4, 2015 - link

    I realize this is a very old post but i'm hopping someone, somewhere will still be willing to help me out. I own a great MacPro 2.1 2007 with the following specs

    Model Name: Mac Pro
    Model Identifier: MacPro2,1
    Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel Xeon
    Processor Speed: 3 GHz
    Number of Processors: 2
    Total Number of Cores: 8
    Memory: 32 GB RAM
    ATI Radeon HD 5780

    I need to change the motherboard in order to install OS X 10.10 or change the system all together. The processors in this system are still quite fast to just get rid of them. Two questions:

    1) Can i find motherboards today that will take these CPUs and work as a Hackintosh
    2) Would you say that an Intel i7 series be faster than these almost 8 year old Xeons?

    I primarily use this system for video editing and i'm starting to edit 4K footage which cannot be played back in real-time on this configuration.

    Hope this post doesn't get lost in digital land and i hear back from someone at Anandtech or the internet world.

    Thank you

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