Intel released its first high-end (over $1,900) dual-core processor back in April of this year — the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 — but now the company is seeking to satisfy the mainstream market with its new Pentium D series of processors.
Intel is offering this Pentium D range of dual-core processors at 2.8GHz, 3GHz and 3.2GHz clock-speeds. Each chip comes with 1MB of cache per core, 64-bit instructions and has a front-side bus speed of 800MHz. The 3GHz and 3.2GHz versions also have Speedstep techno-logy, which slows down the CPUs when they’re not under heavy load in order to save power and reduce fan noise.
The Pentium D series retains the LGA775 socket interface, which is the same as most current Pentium 4 processors. However, be warned that this doesn’t mean that it will fit into any motherboard with a 775-pin CPU socket. Only motherboards that have Intel’s new 945G, 945P or Nvidia’s nForce4 SLI for Intel chip sets will be able to run the dual-core Intel chips, which means it is not a simple upgrade path for those of you that have an existing Intel platform.
PC World examined a Pentium D 2.8GHz chip this month using a pre-production Intel reference motherboard that featured the 945G chip set. This particular chip set supports integrated graphics and audio and is the low-cost solution for an everyday business machine where taxing graphics and multimedia tasks are not part of the everyday workload.
Being the slowest CPU in the Pentium D range, the results we obtained in WorldBench 5 do indeed indicate that the Pentium D 2.8GHz CPU is not for the performance user. Despite having two cores, it scored 84 in this benchmark, which is only about three points better than a typical Pentium 4 520 machine with a 915P chip set. This performance difference was a result of the multitasking test finishing a little quicker. That means the Pentium D will give you a slight performance boost over a HyperThreaded CPU if you are a heavy multitasker, but will not gain you any extra performance in single-threaded applications.
It’s important to note that unlike the Pentium 5xx series and Pentium 6xx series of CPUs, the Pentium D series does not have HyperThreading. The Pentium Extreme Edition 840 is the only CPU of the new-breed dual-core chips to also support HyperThreading. The 945 platform does support the Pentium 5xx and 6xx series of CPUs, but not the Extreme Edition.
An interesting new feature from Intel that is embedded in selected 945 platforms is Intel Active Management Technology. This technology could prove to be a boon for IT administrators as it makes networked systems completely accessible to IT staff, even if the machines are off or in a crashed state, and this technology is touted as being an efficient tracker of company assets and as a tool for remote problem diagnosis.
As a side note, Intel has also said that it’s embedding digital rights management within in its latest dual-core processor Pentium D and accompanying 945 chip set. Fears existing content could be rendered unplayable have been quelled by Intel sources who say the DRM technology would not be able to be applied retrospectively to media or files that did not interoperate with the new technology.
As it stands, the Pentium D 2.8GHz is not much of an upgrade over existing 2.8GHz Pentium 4 CPUs, but you will get a slight benefit when multitasking. It is a relatively inexpensive dual-core CPU, retailing at around $500, although it does require a new chip set to run on.