It has only been a few weeks since Intel offered a pre-release look at the 45nm Yorkfield quad core, in the form of the 3.0 GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9650. This processor amazed us with its incredible performance, and topped that off with the lowest power consumption figures we have seen yet for a quad core. History repeats itself with the 45nm Core 2 Extreme QX9770, a 3.2 GHz quad core powerhouse that won't be hitting store shelves until early in 2008. But Intel has been kind enough to let us provide a technology preview of their latest effort, which not only increases core speeds, but also ramps up the system bus to FSB1600.
The Yorkfield is the quad core portion of the 45nm Penryn family, which along with the Wolfdale dual core models, offers significant improvements over the 65nm Kentsfield. The Yorkfield is based on 45-nanometer (nm) High-k metal gate silicon technology, which uses a combination of high-k gate dielectrics and conductors, rather than silicon, to build the transistor gates. A prime advantage of this technology is faster transistor switching speeds, but at reduced power, which in turn allows higher processor speeds at a lower thermal and power envelope.
This is more than just a 45nm die shrink, and Intel has made changes to the core architecture as well. Intel has taken advantage of the 45nm SRAM process to upgrade L2 Smart Cache to a full 6MB per dual core (2x6MB for quad). The L2 cache also has 24-way associativity, compared to only 16- way associativity on the 65nm Core 2 processors. This improves theoretical performance, as cache hits will be higher with a 6MB L2 compared to only 4MB, and the upgrade to 24-way associativity increases it even further. The Yorkfield also includes the latest microarchitecture enhancements, enhanced power saving, and support for SSE4, Super Shuffle Engine, Enhanced Intel Virtualization Technology, and Fast Radix-16 Divider.
The Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is based on the same Yorkfield quad core design as the Core 2 Extreme QX9650, featuring 2 x 6MB of independent L2 cache, for a total of 12MB of Advanced Smart Cache. The overall processor design has not changed though, and the 45nm Yorkfield is simply a pair of Wolfdale dual cores on a single processor package. It supports the LGA package, offers basic features like Intel Virtualization Technology, Execute Disable Bit, Intel 64 architecture, and SpeedStep, and like all Intel Extreme processors, is unlocked.
Naturally, the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 model name denotes higher performance, and Intel has done this by increasing both core and bus speeds. The latest 45nm Yorkfield is clocked at 3.2 GHz and upgrades the bus to 1600 MHz - or as Intel likes to call it, FSB1600. Core voltages have also jumped slightly, and while the 3.0 GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9650 ran at approximately 1.2V-1.25V, the 3.2 GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9770 increases that to approximately 1.3V, with a max of 1.36V. This has all combined to raise the processor's TDP (thermal design power) and it increases from the 130W of the Core 2 Extreme QX9650, to 136W for the Core 2 Extreme QX9770.
Upgrade possibilities also suffer a bit, and while many existing Intel X38 boards do support FSB1600, the upcoming Intel X48 chipset is tailored especially for a 1600 MHz bus. We had no problem running it on a Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 with the latest BIOS, but check your motherboard vendor website just to be sure.