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Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 965

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It seems like it was just yesterday that Benny took a look at the Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955. Sighs of relief echoed around the office, as we were told it would be the last processor to be based on NetBurst architecture. Yet, here I am, reviewing the latest incarnation of the Presler core, with Netburst at its heart. We have been promised that this will be the last too, so here’s hoping.

Let’s face it - NetBurst has been a blotch on Intel’s otherwise pretty sturdy reputation. It’s ridiculously power hungry, hot, expensive and has had more platform changes than a British train station. Not to mention the rather forceful transitions to PCI Express and DDR2 - and let’s not forget RAMBUS either. Perhaps Intel’s slogan should be “Making upgrading impossible.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no anti-Intel activist – my home desktop uses a 1.6GHz Dothan Pentium M and so does my notebook. Some of my fondest memories are from fiddling with my overclocked Celeron SMP set up. The Pentium M/Core processor is superb - it’s just a pity Intel has taken so long to realise just how much better it is than NetBurst. The next desktop processors to come out of Intel, codenamed “Conroe” will actually be based on very similar technology. Preliminary results of this new processor suggest it will blow away any processor that either Intel or AMD are currently offering and I’m certainly counting the days until I can have a proper play with one in labs.

Taking Conroe and AMD’s new AM2 socket in to account, right now has therefore got to be one of the worst possible times to buy a new processor. With this in mind we take a look at the new Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 965 processor.

The 965EE is almost identical to the 955EE, with a whopping 2MB of Level 2 cache per core totalling 4MB. It’s still the Presler core, which is two 65nm ‘Cedar Mill’ cores, sitting underneath the same metal cap. Having two entirely separate cores increases yields on Intel’s part, which should mean better availability and pricing. However, having the cores connected in such a way means that any cross-core communication has to go via the northbridge potentially introducing a fair amount of latency. AMD have overcome this problem using their crossbar, in a much more elegant manner.

This processor is actually a slightly newer revision of Presler, which has C1E halt state support. The upshot of this and other enhancements is that the processor seems to run quite a bit cooler than the 955EE. This will be how and why Intel has boosted the clock speed to 2 x 3.73GHz on a 1066MHz front side bus. It’s certainly not the 10GHz that Intel originally thought NetBurst would scale to, but you wouldn’t be unhappy with this much power under your desk.

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