Beyond Dual Core: 2007 Desktop CPU Road Map - Intel advances (continued)

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Intel advances (continued)

'Bearlake' chip set boosts front-side bus speeds

As Intel shifts to multicore processing, the bus speed becomes a more pressing concern because of the increased volume of data traffic generated by separate CPU cores. The front-side bus (FSB) is the primary channel of data communication between the CPU and other devices on the system, such as RAM and hard drives. It's essentially a single-lane highway with limited bandwidth (see Wikipedia's excellent explainer for details). As CPU manufacturers stack more processing cores onto a single processor, the risk that this data channel will become full increases, hence the need for faster FSB speeds.

Thus, one of the most significant releases Intel will make in 2007 is a brand-new chip set foundation code-named "Bearlake." This chip set is the successor to the 975X chip set and will feature a number of upgrades and improvements. The P35 Express will be released first in the second quarter of 2007 and will feature two key upgrades: an all-new 1,333-MHz FSB and support for DDR2-800 and DDR3-1066 memory.

Intel recently announced official names for the first wave of Bearlake chip sets. The G35 and G33 monikers will be attached to mainstream consumer desktop chip sets. The G35 chip set will feature an integrated DirectX 10-compatible graphics processor.

The P35 Express and X38 Express will be Intel's performance-oriented, high-end versions of Bearlake. The X38 will feature the same 1,333-MHz FSB and DDR2-800/DDR3-1066 memory support found in the P35 Express, and it will also feature two PCI-Express x16 slots and PCI Express 2.0, which is twice as fast as PCI-Express 1.0 (5 GHz, compared with 2.5 GHz).

1,333-MHz front-side bus CPUs by midyear

At the same time it releases the Bearlake chip set described above, Intel will also release three speedy new Core 2 processors that are compatible with the Bearlake chip set's 1,333-MHz FSB and other new features. The model numbers of these processors are the E6850, E6750 and E6650. (The "50" designator in the model number indicates a FSB speed of 1,333-MHz).

The clock speeds of the E6850, E6750 and E6650 will be ratcheted up to 3 GHz, 2.66 GHz, and 2.33 GHz, respectively. For reference's sake, 3 GHz is the current high mark for Intel's Core 2 CPUs and can currently be found in only one Core 2 processor -- the Extreme X6800. Each of these new Core 2 CPUs is a dual-core, single-die processor that utilizes 4MB of shared L2 cache.

At the same time it releases the E6850, E6750 and E6650, Intel will also release a non-Bearlake CPU -- the E6800. The E6800 will have a clock speed of 3 GHz and a 4MB shared cache, but will run at a bus speed of only 1,066 MHz.