What's new with the Harpertown Xeon

Although Harpertown represents a "tick" (or minor update according to Intel's nomenclature), a lot has changed. Harpertown not only includes a variety of micro-architecture changes, but it also is also based on a 45nm manufacturing process. You'll notice that most of the tweaks that Intel has introduced focus on keeping the processor from going out to main memory. Below is a list of the main highlights of what's new:


The new Xeon is a 45nm part, which lowers power consumption, reduces die size (and increases transistor count), and helps Intel reach higher clock speeds. Harpertown will top off at 3.2GHz at launch, but higher clock speeds are rumored to follow. For an in-depth look at Intel's 45nm process, read the following article.

1600MHz FSB

With the new Stoakley platform, the Front Side Bus (FSB) now tops out at 1600MHz. This bus increase should help Intel fight off their bus speed bottleneck woes awhile longer until QuickPath (Intel's on-die memory controller) makes its debut.

12MB L2

Each set of two cores has a total of 6MB of L2, which brings the total L2 cache up to 12MB. Again, this will allow Intel to stay out of memory as long as possible which should increase performance.

New SSE4 Instructions

Harpertown includes Intel Streaming SIMD Extensions 4 (SSE4) instructions, the largest unique instruction set addition since the original SSE Instruction Set Architecture (ISA).

High-K Process Technology

In order to extend Moore's Law, Intel uses a new material in their transistors which is a combination of high-k gate dielectrics and metal gates. This new technology increases the switching speed of the transistors and helps reduce power consumption to allow Intel to continue to deliver faster processors that consume less power.

Index AMD Quad-Core Opteron (Barcelona)
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  • Hans Maulwurf - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    Barcelona is about as fast as Harpertown in AS3AP. OK.

    In your article you write:
    "The Scalable Hardware benchmark measures relational database systems. This benchmark is a subset of the AS3AP benchmark and tests the following: ..."

    Now you choose a subset of this test in which Harpertown is much faster. Obviously AS3AP consist of several substest and you could as well choose one where Barcelona is much faster. But whats the use of this? You tested all subtest together with your AS3AP-Test.

    Its the same as testing a game and both CPUs having the same score. Then you choose a subtest(e.g. KI only) where Harpertown is faster and conclude its faster overall.

    So what did I miss here? From what I read Barcelona is as fast in AS3AP as Harpi(and should be faster in some subtest and slower in others) while you conclude:

    "Intel has made some successful changes to the quad-core Xeon that have helped it achieve as much as a 56% lead in performance over the 2.0GHz Barcelona part."

    I dont understand this.
  • tshen83 - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    Did anyone here notice the huge metal bar across the FB-DIMM slots? It must be for more FB-Dimm cooling. Without looking at the server first hand, you can't tell how the metal bar is attached to the memory.

    My question is this: where can you buy the bar if you were to build a server class PC yourself? And can someone tell me the mounting mechanism.
  • Viditor - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link


    Update: For those that are looking for more details and wondering why certain other chips aren't included, at the time testing was conducted we did not have any of the faster 2.5GHz Barcelona chips (or the slower Harpertowns). That situation has been remedied in terms of AMD's CPUs, and we will have some update articles looking at how the faster Barcelona compares with other processors. Stay tuned...

    One other piece of data is missing from the article, and it's looking like it might be important...
    Kris Kubicki wrote in his blog
    "The 2.0 GHz samples we saw on Monday were of AMD's B1 stepping of Barcelona. But these processors are not the ones we'll see on Newegg's shelves"
    "Production Barcelona samples come with the BA revision designator"
    "One AMD developer, who wished to remain anonymous for non-disclosure purposes, stated, "B1 versus BA should be at least a 5%, if not more, gain in stream, integer and FPU performance.""
    "An AMD engineer, when confronted with the claim, stated that 5% gains when moving from B1 to BA processors "seem conservative.""

    Given that, when you guys do the update, could you let us know which stepping it is that you're using? It appears that it may make a significant difference...
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    Remember: 5% performance gains in synthetic benchmarks that stress specific aspects of a CPU don't mean 5% real-world gains.
  • Viditor - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link


    Remember: 5% performance gains in synthetic benchmarks that stress specific aspects of a CPU don't mean 5% real-world gains.

    I agree...but that's exacly why I am looking forward to some real-world benches on the production steppings. We still have no idea how shipping Barcelonas perform yet.
  • Viditor - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    Further on that...supposedly the reason for the better performance is fixing some major errata. It's quite possible that the performance boost is across the board and not just in synthetic benches.
  • Schugy - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    You run two benchmarks, you run closed software, you run software that might be optimized for the market leader's processors only, you run software that can't be optimized for the new architecture, you don't benchmark any alpha software that uses rapid virtualization.

    Maybe we have some benchmark numbers but the real performance of Barcelona is still speculation.
  • clnee55 - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    AMD is always the underdog. They need superior product to gain market share. That was the case of Athlon vs Netburst. If Barcelona is just competitive, it is not good enough for them to regain the crown. They will stay as underdog.
  • randomname - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    From what I understand, these new (Harpertown) Xeons will not be released until November (12th?). Yet the article makes no mention of it, and by reading it, you would assume you can buy them right now.

    Or have I understood something wrong?
  • mutambo - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    Intel systems are power mongers...generate enough heat to replace a room heater.Check out any dual socket systems they are using all kinds of cooling to cool the FB-DIMMs those are the worst part in intel builds.

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