Windows & Linux Edition
Volume 1, Number 40 -- November 20, 2002

Intel Debuts Faster Buses, New Chipsets for Xeon DPs

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Intel this week announced four new "Prestonia" Pentium 4 Xeon DP processors that support the faster 533 MHz frontside bus that it has been promising to server makers so they can build more balanced systems. Intel also announced a new two-way chipset for servers to make use of these chips, a variant of it for workstations, and another chipset for uniprocessor workstations based on its plain vanilla Pentium 4 chips.

Intel's PR machine billed the announcement as the "largest server and workstation introduction to date," which was a bit over the top for describing what amounts to two chipsets and a new processor with a faster bus speed. That said, the faster frontside bus is a welcome thing, since it will add about 33 percent more bus bandwidth to two-way servers and workstations and allow Prestonia processors to do about 25 percent more work on commercial and technical applications. Provided Intel can make these chips in volume, it shouldn't take long for vendors to place big orders for the chipsets and Prestonia chips that use them.

The server chipset is a variant of the "Plumas" E7500 chipset that Intel announced in February 2002, and the new Prestonias are variants of the 2.6 GHz and 2.8 GHz Xeon DPs that Intel announced in the middle of September 2002. The improved Plumas chipset has a quad-pumped frontside bus that delivers an aggregate 533 MHz of speed (that's four times 133 MHz) and 4.3 GB/sec of bandwidth. Prior Pentium III and Pentium 4 chips, including the Prestonias and their bigger brothers, the "Foster" and "Gallatin" Pentium 4 Xeon MP chips, support a quad-pumped 400 MHz frontside bus (that's four times 100 MHz). The prior generation FSB had an aggregate bandwidth of 3.2 GB/sec. The updated Plumas chipset supports have two PCI-X segments that each supports three 64-bit, 133 MHz PCI-X slots. The original E7500 Plumas chipset and the new E7501 Plumas chipset support up to 16 GB of main memory. The new E7501 chipset will also backstep to a 400MHz FSB speed, presumably to support older Prestonia chips.

There are four new Prestonia chips that support the 533 MHz FSB. A 2 GHz chip costs $198 in 100-unit quantities, while the 2.4 GHz version costs $234, the 2.6 GHz version costs $337, and the top-end 2.8 GHz version costs $455. All of these chips, like the 400 MHz FSB Prestonias, have 20 KB of on-chip, integrated L1/L2 cache memory and 512 KB of on-chip L3 cache memory. In conjunction with the announcement, Intel cut prices on two of the Xeon DP processors with the 400 MHz FSB. The 2.8 GHz chip now costs $433, down 23 percent from $562 and just a bit below the price Intel is charging for the chip with a 533 MHz FSB. Similarly, Intel cut the price of the 2.6 GHz, 400 MHz FSB version of the Prestonia chip by 25 percent from $433 to $326. This is just a few bucks lower than the 533 MHz FSB version again. Prices for the 2 GHz and 2.4 GHz Prestonias remain the same at $188 and $224 apiece, respectively. It costs only $10 more a chip to get the faster FSB. Intel is hoping that is exactly what server buyers will want to do, especially since that choice also drives chipset sales at Intel.

Intel also announced a chipset code-named "Granite Bay" and sold as the E7205 that supports a 533 MHz FSB and makes use of regular Pentium 4 processors, which range in speed from 2.2 GHz to 3.06 GHz these days. The "Placer" chipset is a variant of Plumas that substitutes support for AGP 8X graphics and other USB 2.0 I/O for PCI-X I/O subsystems and is aimed at two-way Xeon DP workstations running 32-bit Windows and Linux.

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Timothy Prickett Morgan

Managing Editor
Mari Barrett

Contributing Editors
Dan Burger
Joe Hertvik
Shannon O'Donnell
Victor Rozek
Hesh Wiener
Alex Woodie

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Jenny Thomas

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Kim Reed

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Last Updated: 11/20/02
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