On November 14 Intel introduced its first quad-core server chips in the form of the Xeon 5300 series, also known under the code name Clovertown. Although the chip is technically pretty much identical to the desktop version which we looked at earlier, it runs on a different platform and is meant for other tasks. In this article we look at the influence of the step from dual-core to quad-core on Intel's position and how Clovertown holds up in our database test.
Old and new
Since the Xeon 5300 'Clovertown' is, with the exception of a faster bus, identical to the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 'Kentsfield' - whose architecture we looked at extensively in this review - this article has a somewhat more light-hearted introduction. In the table below, the new quad-core is compared to Intel's very first microprocessor, the 4004. This processor was in the spotlight again recently, because it was 35 years ago on November 13 that the chip hit the market.
|Introduction||1971||2006||35 years later|
|Price||~$935*||$1172||25% more expensive|
|Cores||1||4||4x as much|
|Instructions per clock tick||1||16||4x as much per core|
|Clock speed||108kHz||2.66GHz||24.691x higher|
|Bus frequency||108kHz||1333MHz||12.346x higher|
|Production technique||10000nm||65nm||154x smaller|
|Wafer size||50mm||300mm||36x larger surface|
|Transistors||2300||582 million||63.261x more per core|
|Physical size||12mm˛||286mm˛||6x larger per core|
|Contact points||16||771||48x more|
|Registers||4 bit||64 bit||16x wider|
|Instructions||46||~700||15x as many|
|Consumption||1W||120W||30x higher per core|
The difference is humongous: with its clock of a tenth of a megahertz, the 4004 could perform a little over 100,000 instructions per second, while Clovertown can manage almost 43 billion in the same time span. To equal the theoretical computing power of a quad-core Xeon, 395.061 4004's would be needed, and then we are not even recognising the fact that one does its math with 4 bits while the other uses 64 bits. We'll save Intel's first-born from a crushing comparison in terms of performance per Watt and per dollar, but it should be clear that the small steps that we have seen over the years, exhibit extreme differences taken across a few decades.