The idea of a sudden remedy to a pressing issue is known as a magic bullet. Seemingly miraculous, magic bullets are few and far between. But that doesn’t stop hopeful dreamers from chasing them, driven by a lust for quick payoff or an end to some mass affliction.
It might be a stretch to say that Intel has been looking for a magic bullet of its own. However, after a long and drawn-out performance battle with AMD, the chip giant must be growing weary of losing market share both on the desktop and in the server space.
Nowhere is AMD’s prominence felt more strongly than games, though. Single-core, dual-core, it doesn’t matter. The AMD64 architecture consistently asserts itself as an efficient design well-suited when it comes time to play. The latest dual-core and Hyper-Threading patches for Quake 4 and Call of Duty 2 demonstrate that Intel is still very much a contender, but it’ll take even more to overcome the deficit incurred by NetBurst.
As it turns out, Intel is actually planning to phase its controversial architecture out in 2006. All indications (that’d be roadmaps straight from Intel) point to the latter half of the year, meaning its existing layout, ushered in by the Prescott core, will persist until then. There will be one final stopping-off point on the road to inevitability—a sudden shift from 90nm manufacturing to an advanced 65nm process.
Now, we’re not looking for a magic bullet here. The architecture is what it is and it’d be silly to expect some revolutionary shift in dominance due to smaller transistors. Advanced lithography allows Intel to improve power consumption, reduce costs by manufacturing more workable cores per wafer, and add features. Fortunately, in this age of dual-core processing, the goodness is spread around doubly.
Presler is Born
The first core to benefit from 65nm is the dual-core Presler, aimed squarely at desktop customers. It combines a lot of existing technology with a bit of new, yielding a noteworthy boost in speed and functionality, but nothing particularly revolutionary.
Presler is an effective replacement for Smithfield, the core currently powering dual-core Pentium D processors. Whereas Smithfield consisted of one large die and two conjoined cores, the Presler package is made of up two separate dies, which is how Intel is able to achieve better operating yield this time around. The 65nm shrink also made it possible to include more cache memory. So while Smithfield wielded two attached cores each with 1MB of memory, Presler levels physically divided cores sporting 2MB each.