Intel has confirmed that it will ship its Pentium 4 6xx series this month. Crucially, the new chips bring the company's AMD64-like 64-bit addressing technology, EM64T, to the desktop CPU family.
The 6xx chips have been on Intel's roadmap for well over six months now, and were expected mid-Q1. Intel Digital Enterprise Group VP Rob Crooke said the 64-bit P4s would ship later this month, though he did not provide further details. Mostly, he focused on Intel's plans for 64-bit Xeon processors.
Intel has offered 64-bit P4s for some time, but aimed exclusively at one-way servers and workstations. The 6xx series brings EM64T-equipped P4s into the mainstream, made possible by the approaching release - at long last - of the 64-bit version of Windows XP.
Like current top-end P4s, the 6xx series with operate over an 800MHz frontside bus and use the LGA775 pin-out. However, the new chips double the on-board L2 cache to 2MB, and are expected to implement Intel's formerly notebook-oriented SpeedStep technology in a bid to reduce the amount of heat they generate.
That's a two-edge sword, of course. To be effective, SpeedStep needs to keep the core voltage and clock speed down. Since that's based on processor load, anyone who finds themselves running a cool PC clearly doesn't need the full performance that the processor can deliver - a sign perhaps that we generally don't need top-speed CPUs as much as the chip industry would have us believe. That said, unlike a slower chip that more generally matches the user's processing-demand levels, the faster SpeedStep-enabled parts do at least have extra welly when it's needed.
Intel is expected to ship four 6xx P4s this month: the 3GHz 630, the 3.2GHz 640, the 3.4GHz 650 and the 3.6GHz 660. A 3.8GHz 670 is due to ship early Q2. ®
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