New Xeon chips from Intel surface on retail sites

Online retailers are taking orders for Intel's new Xeon server chips, providing early details of the new Nehalem-based processors ahead of the company's official launch.

On Monday, retailers were listing on their Web sites new quad-core chips from the Xeon 5500 series with speeds between 2.0 GHz and 3.2 GHz. These chips belong to the Nehalem EP series of server chips for dual-socket servers and workstations, which Intel described in a product road map.

The new Xeon chips are based on the Nehalem architecture, which incorporates QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) technology to speed up server performance. QPI integrates a memory controller and provides a faster pipe for the CPU to communicate with system components such as graphics cards. The new chips cut out some bottlenecks of Intel's earlier chip microarchitectures to improve system speed and performance per watt.

Each of the four cores will be able to execute two software threads simultaneously, running eight threads at the same time for quicker application performance.

The chips being offered by retailers include the quad-core Xeon W5580 processor, which runs at 3.2 GHz, and quad-core Xeon X5500-series processors running between 2.66 GHz and 2.93 GHz. The Web sites lists the chips with 8MB of shared L3 cache.

The Xeon W5580 is priced at $1,785 on retailer Keenzo Electronics' Web site and for $1,679 by Tech Micro. The Xeon X5500 series of processors is priced between $1,000 and $1,650.

Retail sites also listed Xeon E5500 series chips running between 2.0 GHz and 2.53 GHz. The Xeon E5504 and E5506 chips include 4MB of shared L3 cache and are priced between $250 and $320 from online retailers. The Xeon E5520, E5530 and E5540 chips include 8MB of L3 cache and are priced between $400 and $800.

Intel plans to launch the chips later this quarter, a company spokesman said, declining further comment.

Provantage is listing a ThinkStation D10 workstation based on the Xeon E5540 processor for $4,184.

Intel earlier released its first Nehalem-based processors with the Core i7 chips for high-end gaming desktops in November. The chip maker intends to scale down the Nehalem architecture for other chips that will go into mainstream desktops and laptops later this year. Intel will also integrate graphics capabilities in the CPU down the line, which should bring more power efficiency to laptops.

The new Xeon chips will compete in the server space against AMD's quad-core Opteron chips, code-named Shanghai. AMD launched Shanghai chips last year and added more chips to the lineup last week. AMD's Shanghai chips run at speeds varying from 2.1 GHz to 2.8 GHz.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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