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A Look at Intel’s Upcoming “Gulftown” Hexa-Core Processor

If you have been on several tech blogs or websites recently, you might have seen information on Intel’s upcoming “six core” processor. The processor – code named “Gulftown” – is branded as the “Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition.” The processor is expected to debut around the first quarter of 2010 and will most likely be available on desktop computers. Read on for more on this new CPU.

Multi-Core Processors

intel-chipBefore I get to the “Gulftown” specs, I should explain more about multi-core processors (since this is one) and how you benefit from them. A multi-core processor is a processor that is composed of two or more independent cores built inside a single silicon chip. A dual-core processor is a processor that has two cores (hence the name “dual”). A tri-core processor has three cores. And so on. In this case, we are talking about six cores, thus it is known as a “hexa-core” processor. What does this mean for you? It means better performance since each core is like its own processor. Typical computers that house quad-core processors tend to be on the expensive side, usually around $700 or higher (depending on the PC).  Almost every laptop and desktop today has a dual-core processor inside, though they vary in price depending on other hardware as well.

Specifications

The Gulftown processor will be designed on 32mn Westmere architecture and is expected to have speeds clocked at 3.33GHz. The processor will also feature 12MB unified L3 cache along with 256KB L2 cache per core and 64KB L1 cache on the motherboard. Cache memory is high-speed memory that stores recently used data for quick access. The more cache memory there is, the more data it can store thus yielding better efficiency.

Other specifications include:

Intel Technologies

Some the above technologies may need explaining, so here they are:

Hyper-Threading (HT) technology means that each core is capable of executing multiple threads of data for one instruction (or simply put, multiple tasks for one instruction). For this “Gulftown” processor, each core can execute two threads at one time. Thus, each core functions like two cores, which doubles efficiency. Thus when you have a six-core processor with HT technology built-in, it behave (sort of) as if it were a 12-core processor.

Turbo Boost technology allows for each core to run at faster speeds than their base frequency. This can happen only if the processor (or an individual core) is operating within specific temperature and power limits. Turbo Boost initiates when the operating system requests the processor to perform at its highest possible state. It’s like “overclocking” except the operating system makes the decision on its own without putting the processor at risk of overheating or physical abuse.

Finally, Intel QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) provides high-speed point-to-point links to individual shared memory controllers to optimize data transfer and computer performance.

If you combine all of these specs and technologies into one silicon chip, then you have a processor with astounding speed and performance, and that’s what Intel expects.

There is no confirmation on how much the “Gulftown” chip (or computers housing the chip) will cost. However we can anticipate that PC gamers, multimedia enthusiasts, power-hungry PC users, audio/video editors, and other hardcore PC users will spend their life savings for something this powerful.