Intel's New 45nm Yorkfield QX9650

Intel marches forward with another groundbreaking processor. Four cores of 45nm goodness. At this rate, you have to wonder whether or not desktop software and AMD will ever catch up. How good does it overclock? All signs point to, "Wow!"


Tick tock. While AMDآ’s desktop product line continues to remain somewhat stagnant, Intel continues to move forward at an impressive and somewhat surprising rate even though it is happening exactly like Intel said it would. Intel promised to shrink their current microprocessor design on the آ“tickآ” and then release a new microprocessor architecture on the آ“tock.آ” And there is no doubt about it; Intel is both ticking and tocking.

Todayآ’s processor soft-launch puts us back on آ“tickآ” with Intelآ’s architecture codenamed آ“Penryn.آ” The Penryn hard-launch will follow on November 12.

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Below is a picture of the Yorkfield core sporting Penryn architecture. If you think you are seeing a lot of L2 cache, you would exactly correct, 12MB to be exact.

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Penryn is a not a tremendous departure from the current Core 2 processor line in terms of performance from what we have seen this month in our testing, but looks to hold the ability to be. It is also not a great departure from the Core 2 in terms of overall design, but it is not supposed to be. As noted in the graphic above, Penryn represents a آ“derivativeآ” of the current Core 2 architecture along with a die shrink.

The two slides below outline the following tock-tick-tock Intel has committed to. (Intelآ’s Nehalem core promises to be the biggest departure from what has become tradition design as it will incorporate an on-die memory controller and advanced bus architecture. )

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First and foremost the quad core Penryn represents Intel manufacturing process moving to 45nm from the current 65nm. In terms of the quad core processorآ’s size, the original Kentsfield Core 2 Quad weighed in at 582 million transistors with a surface area of 284mm squared, while the Penryn آ“Yorkfieldآ” weighs in at 820 million transistors with a 214mm squared die size. Obviously we can see that Penryn has a lot more transistors and in a much smaller area than the previous Core 2 Quad. Many of those new transistors are being spent on cache. The current top-end آ“Core 2 Extreme QX6850آ” has a total of 8MB of L2 cache where this new QX9650 Yorkfield has a total of 12MB in two 6MB units.


One of the other big changes is that we now have Intelآ’s SSE4 that was announced last year and followed up this year with some specifics. As always, the instruction set is compatible with every previous version of SSE. It is hard to argue against Intelآ’s SSE instruction set and what it has done for smoother software experiences, but SSE is something that is hardly ever realized at the hardwareآ’s introduction. SSE4 does however make some very big promises as to what it can bring.

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Hopefully we will see SSE4 heavily utilized. As for your AMD fans out there, SSE4 will not be seen in AMDآ’s upcoming Barcelona or Agena core quad-core processors and is very likely not going to be seen in AMDآ’s upcoming Bulldozer core technology either.

Much more Penryn SSE4 information can be found here.

In a Nutshell

The QX9650 is a quad core processor that runs at a stock 3GHz clock speed with a 1333MHz Front Side Bus and utilizing SSE4 instruction sets. It is manufactured using a 45nm high-K metal gate transistor technology and contains 12MB of L2 cache, has 820 million transistors, on a die size of 214mm squared. It continues the LGA775 socket form factor and can be used on P35 and X38 chipset motherboard among others. (Check for new motherboard BIOS with your board builder.) Intel has rated the QX9650 with a 130 watt TDP. (Please check our power section in this article for more on that.)

No pricing is going to be released today, but I would not expect the QX9650 to fetch anything less than US$999 or even possibly that dreaded US$1200 mark. This information should be released on the hard-launch date of November 12.