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Intel readying Extreme Edition processor

Price seems to be off the scale

Motherboard maker Asustek Computer helped shed a little light on Intel's plans for the high end of its desktop processors with a press release on Thursday for a new motherboard designed to support the forthcoming chips and chipsets.

Asustek's new P5WDG2-WS motherboard supports the Pentium Extreme Edition 955, a processor that is not on Intel's pricing list. The Extreme Edition 955 appears to be the first iteration of the Presler core, which Intel had previously announced earlier this year at the Spring Intel Developer Forum. An Intel spokesman confirmed the company is shipping the new 975X chipset included in the motherboard, but declined to comment on the Extreme Edition 955 processor.

Presler is Intel's first desktop processor built on its 65nm processing technology. It is technically a dual-core processor, but it is really a multichip module consisting of two separate desktop processors fused into a single package. This is cheaper and easier to implement than melding two processor cores onto a single chip, especially two cores with the power consumption problems that have characterised Intel's desktop chips in recent years.

Presler, and a single-core counterpart known as Cedar Mill, will likely be the end of the line for the Netburst architecture that has been the basis of the Pentium 4 processor since 2000 and the recently introduced Pentium D processor. Netburst was designed to let Intel steadily increase the clock speed of its chips, since this was thought to be the most easily understood aspect of processor performance. But faster clock speeds equal increasing amounts of power consumption, and Intel has been forced away from that strategy because of the engineering challenges of containing that power and the resulting heat given off by these fast processors.

Sometime in the second half of 2006, Intel will introduce three new multicore chips based on what it calls its 'next-generation microarchitecture'. That architecture is based on low-power design principles similar to those used to build Intel's Pentium M processor for notebooks.

Intel markets the Pentium Extreme Edition processors toward gamers and other PC users who demand the greatest available performance in a PC processor. The company charges a significant premium for the chip compared with its other Pentium D processors, and therefore doesn't sell all that many.

The Pentium Extreme Edition 955 will come with 2MB of Level 2 cache for each processing core, according to the Asustek press release and Intel briefings from earlier this year. It will support Intel's hyperthreading technology as well as its virtualisation technology, and connect to memory using a 1,066MHz front-side bus.

The 975X chipset will accompany systems featuring the 955 processor. It features two PCI Express x16 slots for adding components such as high-end graphics cards. It will also support Serial ATA hard drives.

Intel has planned to launch Presler in the first quarter of 2006. It was not clear from the release when Asustek's motherboard would become available to PC manufacturers.

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