A look at Intel's upcoming moves

Written by Brett Thomas

August 18, 2006 | 21:19

Tags: #bearlake #broadwater #celeron #pentium-4 #pentium-m

Companies: #intel

The release of Conroe has been a big step for Intel, who is certainly living up to the new model 'leap ahead.' Well, the leaping seems to have no intentions of stopping, as news has begun to circulate over the week about some of the different plans. Rather than report them individually as small stories, we figured we'd let the dust clear a minute to give you a more comprehensive picture.

First things first is the anouncement of the Bearlake chipset. This is technically the successor to the 975X chipset released earlier this year in preparation for Conroe, but it seems to make the just recently released 965 "Broadwater" chipset obsolete as well. The chip is largely identical 965 chipset, except that it supports FSBs of up to 1333MHz instead of 1066MHz. Why do we need 1333MHz FSB in a desktop chipset? Why, for the 1333MHz DDR3 it supports, along with desktop chips that are so far unannounced. Also included is PCI-E 2.0 support, allowing 5Gbps transfer rates.

Though we don't know specifics on the new desktop 1333MHz FSB processors, Intel has let loose on the release of its Kentsfield processor, which we previously heard had been stepped up to the end of 2006. Apparently that is still on target for being released Quarter 4, and will be made up of two Conroe processors (as suspected). Final specs are 2.66GHz (1066MHz FSB), 2x 4MB shared cache. The chip will debut at $999, competing against AMD's upcoming FX-64, and will be part of the Core 2 Extreme line (I wish they'd change that name, reminds me too much of the old P4). In other quad-core news, the Covertown server processor will also be pushed out in 2006, named the Intel Xeon 5300 family. Covertown will be a la Kentsfield, only it will use two Woodcrest processors instead of Conroe. Woodcrest processors currently run at 1333MHz FSB, but that will be scaled back to 1066MHz in the quad-core model. We're not sure on the reasoning behind this change.

Finally, on to what Intel is leaving behind as it makes all these moves. The company has announced the discontinuation of 19 of its processors in an effort to reduce its need for 90nm processes. The entire 90nm Celeron-D line is being obliterated, with half no longer being made in September, and the rest stopped before the end of the year. The line will be survived only by its currently existing 65nm members, until the release of Conroe-L which is expected in Q2-2007. The Pentium-M line will be discontinued altogether, dropped for the new Merom line of Core products.

The Pentium 4 5xx and 6xx models will be discontinued except for two 90nm and one 65nm chips - the P4 531, 541, and 651 respectively. The Pentium D line, which has had a relatively short life, is also finding home in greener pastures, as the entire dual-core market is being shifted to Conroe and Allendale. Many members of the 8xx series have been discontinued starting this week, as well as the 930/940. As Conroe has also made the high-end market obsolete, the P4 XE models will be stopped, too. The batch of Pentium D and P4 XE 840 will no longer be produced after Oct. 2006. The P4 XE 955/965 end in Nov. of 2006.

The phaseout is being made as Conroe production ramps up. As the company shifts its processors to 65nm, it would rather use the 90nm processes for chipsets, rather than waste the money making obsolete products. One Conroe won't be making the transition, though - the X6800 will be phased out, as the first Kentsfield will provide better price/performance for the high-end desktop sector. Expect to see it fall off the roster at the end of Q1-2007.

There is no official word for when the surviving three members of the Pentium line will be retired, but it looks like it will at least go on to see its 14th birthday on March 22, 2007.

Got a thought on the transition? Want to mourn the end of the Pentium era? Upset that with all the great history, the line was discontinued on a note like the P4 XE? Oh, wait, maybe that was just me. Anyhow, tell us your thoughts in our forums.
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