Exotic improvements

With many VMs running on top of a hypervisor, flushing the TLB each time you switched to another VM or to the hypervisor was a costly operation. So the TLBs of the AMD Barcelona cores got a new VM specific tag, called the Address Space IDentifier (ASID). An ASID field was added to each TLB tag.  Intel followed this example more than a year later with its Nehalem CPU. The ASIDs allow the TLB to keep track of which TLB entry belongs to which VM. The result is that a VM switch does not flush the TLB. There's more info on this here.

Since context switching does not only happen between CPUs but also between processes (each process has its own virtual address space), this feature might also be handy for a “native” OS. Some CPU families already incorporated ASIDs a long time ago. Guess. Of course, the famous Alpha CPUs EV4 got this back in 1993. Operating systems will have to support this first, and we don’t expect major performance boosts. Completely exotic is the support for 1 GB pages. 2 MB instead of 4 KB pages make a lot of sense to avoid overwhelming the TLB. But 1 GB pages seem a bit exaggerated until we count our internal RAM in TBs. I was told that a few very exotic HPC applications would be sped up with this. 

And then are of course the obligatory new instructions. Six new instructions have been added to accelerate encryption/decryption using AES. The question remains if the performance improvements are worth the extra debugging time. In some rare cases they might be, but we would be lying if we would say we are enthusiastic about yet another SSE instruction.

The SKUs

Below you find an overview of Intel’s newest line-up. We did not include the AMD’s alternatives as the newest AMD Opteron “Magny-cours” will be launched in a few weeks. The current best AMD Opteron, the six-core Opteron 2435 at 2.6 GHz costs $989. It is clear that this pricing will have to be adjusted downwards with the appearance of both Magny Cours and the new six-core Xeon 5600. We expect the Opteron 2435 to compete with one of the quadcore Xeon E5620 to E5640 models.

Processor Cores TDP Clock Speed Price Notes
Intel Xeon W5680 6 130W 3.3GHz $1663  
Intel Xeon X5670 6 95W 2.93GHz $1440  
Intel Xeon X5660 6 95W 2.80GHz $1219  
Intel Xeon X5650 6 95W 2.66GHz $996  
Intel Xeon X5677 4 130W 3.46GHz $1663 Clockspeed optimized quad-core
Intel Xeon X5667 4 95W 3.06GHz $1440 Clockspeed optimized quad-core
Intel Xeon E5640 4 80W 2.66GHz $744 Clockspeed bin higher than E5540 (2.53)
Intel Xeon E5630 4 80W 2.53GHz $551 Clockspeed bin higher than E5530 (2.40)
Intel Xeon E5620 4 80W 2.40GHz $387 Clockspeed bin higher than E5540 (2.26)
Intel Xeon L5640 6 60W 2.26GHz $996 Two extra cores, same TDP as L5520
Intel Xeon L5630 4 40W 2.13GHz $551 Lowest TDP Rating (5500: 60W)
Intel Xeon L5620 4 40W 1.86GHz $440 No Hyper Threading
Intel Xeon E5507 4 80W 2.26GHz $276 45nm Nehalem, Clockspeed bin higher than E5506 (2.13)
Intel Xeon E5506 4 80W 2.13GHz $219 45nm Nehalem, Clockspeed bin higher than E5505 (2.00)
Intel Xeon E5503 4 80W 2.00 $188 45nm Nehalem, Clockspeed bin higher than E5502 (1.86)


Pricing stays the same as the Xeon X5500 series. Intel adjusted its Xeon lineup to better address some niche markets. For the HPC folks with poor thread scaling but with high performance demands there is the rather expensive X5677 quadcore at 3.46 GHz. The cost sensitive market is addressed by the E5620, E5630 and E5640 quadcores. Those parts get a speedbump for the same price.

One of the most interesting offerings is the L5630. Chances are high that you are not quickly CPU power limited once you buy a server based on Westmere cores. One CPU can still cope with 8 threads, realistically address up to 72 GB of RAM per CPU (144 GB maximum) and needs only 10W per core.

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  • yinan - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    Bah 6 cores. 8 sockets by 8 cores is where it is at :)
  • landerf - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    I always wish with these server/workstation part reviews that we could get a gaming page just for kicks. Specifically in this case I'm thinking of the upcoming dual socket EVGA board and if it will have any effect on games or if it will be only synthetics that show a benefit. I'd also like to see a modern workstation card vs it's mainstream counterpart to see if the gaming performance gap has gotten smaller or larger over the years. I think recently there's been a push to make workstation cards do better in 3d games so you can test your work on the same rig, cutting back on the number of systems.
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    I'd also be curious to see the E5620 overclocked in a consumer board, as its ~$400 price fills the hole between the ~$300 i7-920/930 and the ~$600 i7-950 rather nicely.

    Intel's PR people would probably get pissed, but screw 'em.
  • jonup - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    I was about to post the same. There is a lot of people using Xeons in X58 and P55 boards. Some prefer the lower power consumption others beleive the Xeons oc better. Please show us the money!
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    You do realize that the 55xx/56xx series Xeons only work in dual socket motherboards?!?
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    I think you've got that backwards. A dual socket motherboard needs 5-series chips, but a 5-series should work in a single socket board just fine. In general it'd be silly to run only one (a 2.66GHz W3520 costs ~$300 while a 2.66GHz X5550 costs ~$1000) but if the cheapest 32nm LGA-1366 chip is a 5-series Xeon it might be worth it.
  • jonup - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link

    But you can get E5520 @2.26GHz for $390 and get a faster QPI.
  • greylica - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    Blender 3D 2.50 in his Alpha 2 Stage supports 64 simultaneous Threads, and it's not hard to make benchmarks, and I am missing Blender 3D benchmarks in every processor launch, what happened with ''Blender 3D Character benchamrks'' ?
    Blender can extract blood from those ''beasts''...
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link

    I have indeed heard more than once that Blender is getting really popular. "Alpha 2" does not sound like the software is very stable. Any suggestion to what kind of scene I should use? The scene choice is very important as the parallel rendering part must be long enough compared to some of serial parts in the process. You can mail me at johan@anandtech.com if you like. I am open to suggestions.
  • MySchizoBuddy - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    Also add HPC related benchmarks

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