Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840

Intel Pentium D Extreme Edition 840
The Pentium Extreme Editon


The New Champ On Top: Intel Pentium EE 840

Dual Core Today:

For more than a year now the enthusiast community has been hearing the benefits of dual core processors.  AMD was the first to announce their move to a dual core solution, and much was made of them beating Intel to tape, only one problem... On April 4th, 2005 Intel made it clear to the whole industry that they have dual core ready and will be launching parts this quarter.  While in recent months it was clear AMD was not going to be the first to launch a desktop dual core part, Intel shocked even me when they told us to be ready to sample dual core in March!  While Intel isn't officially launching dual core today, it is giving us a chance to "preview" these new processors now and share our thoughts with our readers.  In the following weeks expect Intel to start shipping desktop dual core processors to the retail market.  Pricing is not even set yet, but we expect them to be approximately the same price as any other Extreme Edition released from Intel. 

Today, for the very first time, Intel is letting the media show off the Intel Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840.  Legit Reviews has the pleasure of being among the first to use the Intel 955X Express chipset, the I/O Controller Hub (ICH7/R), and the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor.  Like getting the keys to a rare sports car, I took the new platform for a test drive and found it to be everything I expected. I found amazing performance gains, pitfalls, and many interesting quirks that come with any advance in technology.

The Intel 840 EE is the first desktop processor featuring a dual core design to be given to the mercy of reviewers.  Dual core means that the processor has two full execution cores, both running at the same clock, in one physical processor.  In the case of the Extreme Edition 840, the two cores are each running at a modest 3.2GHz. The Extreme Edition 840 also features Intel's patented Hyper Threading, which means each processor core has two logical processors for a grand total of 4 threads to be used! 

After waiting more than a year for dual core to arrive, lets get right to the details and take a look at what Intel is up to with the new Smithfield Core. 

The Old Intel Pentium 4 Prescott Processor Core:


The Prescott Core

The New Intel Pentium D Smithfield Core:

Intel will produce a number of different multi-core processors. Initial silicon will feature a "monolithic" design where both cores are on a single die as seen below. The first Intel Pentium D "Smithfield" dual-core processors will use the single-die design. But in the case of 65nm Presler (a CPU slated for production in 2006), the two physical cores will be separate pieces of silicon placed side by side on the same processor in a "multi-chip" design.


The New Smithfield Core:  Is that TWO Prescotts?

As you can clearly see the Intel Pentium D Smithfield core is basically two Prescott processors that have been "bolted" together. Since the release of the Prescott, Intel has put a significant amount of time and money into the design, and has improved it greatly from the original problematic core that it once was.  The first move toward taming the Prescott was the 5XXJ series (E0 steppings), which added XD-Bit and new technologies to lower temperatures (C1E & TM2).  Intel was not done updating the Prescott core, and in February 2005 launched the 6XX series, which added EIST (Enhanced Intel Speed Step) technology for even better thermal properties as well as EMT64 support for next generation 64-bit applications. With the Prescott now fully mature, Intel was able to bring out Smithfield, which is more or less two Intel 6XX series cores attached together. (as seen in the above image)

With the Extreme Edition 840, each of the processing units will have an independent 1MB L2 cache, and Hyper-Threading will be enabled on both cores, which gives the system a total of four processing threads visible to the OS. Hyper-Threading is of course the technology Intel originally introduced in the Pentium 4 that allow a single processor core to handle two processing threads. As it was when Hyper-Threading first came out not all dual core processors will be offering it.  For those not interested in the Extreme Edition series, Intel will have the Pentium D processor.  The Pentium D will have two processing cores and 2MB of L2 cache, but the processor will not have Hyper-Threading support. As a result, the Pentium D will only have the ability to handle two threads, but reach retail shelves at a much lower price point.

Multi-core processors will be compatible with the just announced Intel 955X and 945 Express Chipset families (internally referred to as Lakeport and Glenwood).

Intel Pentium D Extreme Edition 840
The Pentium Extreme Editon CPU


Detailed Block Diagram

The Intel 840 Up Close

The Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840:

The Intel 840 processor does not have many features that we have not seen before on a single core processor.  As you can tell from the chart below it is basically two prescott cores with 1MB cache that have been attached. 

 

Pentium 4 5XX

Pentium 4 6XX

Pentium 4 EE 3.73 GHz

Pentium EE 840

Package

LGA775

LGA775

LGA775

LGA775

Processor rating

570, 560, 550, 540, 530, 520

660, 650, 640, 630

None

840

Clock frequencies

2.8 ? 3.8 GHz

3.0 ? 3.6 GHz

3.73 GHz

3.20 GHz

Bus frequency

800 MHz

800 MHz

1066 MHz

800 MHz

Core

Prescott

Prescott 2M

Prescott 2M

Dual Core

Manufacturing technology

90nm, strained silicon

90nm, strained silicon

90nm, strained silicon

90nm, strained silicon

L1 data cache

16 KB

16 KB

16 KB

2 x 16 KB

Trace cache

12000 micro-ops

12000 micro-ops

12000 micro-ops

2 x 12000 micro-ops

L2 cache

1024 KB

2048 KB

2048 KB

2 x 1024 KB

EM64T

None

Yes

Yes

Yes

XD-bit

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

EIST

None

Yes

None

Yes

Hyper-Threading

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

SIMD-instructions support

SSE, SSE2, SSE3

SSE, SSE2, SSE3

SSE, SSE2, SSE3

SSE, SSE2, SSE3

Number of transistors

125 mln

169 mln

169 mln

230 mln

Die size

112 sq.mm

135 sq.mm

135 sq.mm

206 sq.mm

While some execution resources (such as caches, ececution units, and buses) are shared, each logical processor on the 840 has its own architecture set.  Each individual architecture set contains its own set of general-purpos registers and control registers to provide increased system responsiveness in multitasking and increased headroom for future multithreaded applications.  The Intel 840 offers full four thread functionality, which for threaded applications should lead to very noticable performance gains.  Not too many threaded benchmarks are available, but one where we should see the difference visually and in the results is Cinebench 2003 that we will run later.

Thermal Properties:

Enthusiasts might be a bit worried about the thermal properties on the Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840 and so was Legit Reviews.  We installed the latest Intel beta desktop software and noted that the temperature sensors were not yet working.  After some testing where the system was under heavy loads we noted some restarts with the factory cooling solution (same HSF as any LGA775) and contacted our friends at Intel to help us monitor the temperatures.  At the current time the only thing that can be used to monitor the temperatures on the test platforms is the Hardware Monitoring Utility that is found in the BIOS.  We installed the HSF with a thin layer of Shin-EtsuMiccrosi thermal compound and installed the reference HSF.  Our test bed was then installed in a mid-sized ATX case with three 80mm case fans and booted.  Below is what we saw.

Intel Pentium D Extreme Edition 840
Retail Boxed HSF & Passive NB


H2O w/ 80mm fan cooled northbridge

When the system posted temps were around 40C by the time the BIOS came up.  They then climbed all the way up to 66C before leveling off, while the room temperature was at a mild 22C.  Remember that this is at idle in the BIOS at default voltages and only 800MHz FSB.  Default CPU voltage can be seen above at 1.312V, which isn't bad at all considering the dual core design. We disabled and enabled the CPU fan control in the BIOS and it had no impact on idle performance in the BIOS. 

We heard rumors around the community that Intel was trying out watercooling solutions for the dual core processors and could even possibly offer the Extreme Edition with H2O cooling as an option. Intel commented that they always experiment with the latest in cooling technologies; water cooling included, but has no plans of using it commercially. With that said, Intel said if we have watercooling go ahead and use it if we want. Well, we were going to anyway (our entire test bench is watercooled) and when we used the Corsair HydroCOOL 200ex paired with an 80mm case fan sitting on the northbridge we saw a 20C temperature decrease on the processor. That's a difference of 36 Fahrenheit, for those trying to do quick math in their head.

Water cooling makes a HUGE difference on the thermal properties on these new Intel 840 processors. While some people might gripe about high temperatures, it shouldn't be a big deal when we think about it. If a consumer is going to go out and buy a $1000 processor, $250 motherboard, $550 video card, and everything else to go along with it what is an extra $180-$250 for a quality water cooling solution? I bet companies like Corsair Memory, who started offering water cooling years ago, are jumping up and down with every new product launch. Enthusiasts wishing to overclock their high end processors are almost at the point they need to have water cooling to hit the numbers they are used to.


Our Intel 955X board with Corsair Watercooling & a 80mm fan above the NB.

 

Now that we have taken a look at the general features of the new dual core Intel 840 processor, lets move onto the new chipset.

The i955X Chipset & D955XBK Reference Board


The Intel D955XBK Reference board

The Intel 840 processor performance embargo was lifted at the same time as that for the Intel i955X chipset. Realizing our worst fears, this is because you must have an i945 or i955 chipset based platform to run Dual Core because......wait for it.... dual core processors are not supported by previous generation Intel chipsets.  Not even a BIOS update will allow that i925XE board you just bought to run a dual core processor.  The upcoming nVIDIA C19, VIA PT894 Pro and ATI's R200 are all said to support Dual Core.  This means that consumers will once again have to change out key parts of their system to upgrade to the latest and greatest in hardware.  While this is not going to make enthusiasts happy, taking a quick look at the reference board above, one will note that a PSU upgrade may also be in order .  This is because the Intel D955XBK reference motherboard was designed around the Intel ATX12V version 2.01 power requirements.  Note the 4x2 12V power connector just above the CPU socket and the 24-pin ATX power header below the memory DIMM's.

This board offers a secondary PCIe slot in the form of a physical x16 connector with electrical routing of x4. The fact that the slot is an electrical equivalent of a x4 is important to note. This slot supports x1 and x4 PCIe cards. Although the PCIe specification allows x16 cards to auto negotiate down from x16 to x4 and x1 and may work functionally, such configurations have not been validated by Intel for use on the D955XBK reference board.


The Intel D955XBK Reference board

The 955X Chipset:

The Intel 955X chipset offers dual-channel DDR2-667 memory support (Unofficially supports a working DDR2-800 option in the BIOS), a fast 1066MHz system bus speed, and PCI Express architecture for up to 4GB/Sec of bi-directional bandwidth for graphics cards and other I/O devices that users add on.  Some of the biggest changes changes on the Intel 955X Express chipset is the improved memory architecture. Actually the Intel 955X Express chipset incorporates a brand new memory controller hub (MCH) backbone architecture.  Intel enchanced the memory pipelining on the i955X over what was used on the i925XE and has achieved higher utilization of each memory channel, improving the memory bandwidth.  Intel didn't extend the pipelines like the did from the Northwood to Prescott, but made them wider for better data flow.  Intel also improved the electrical layout with optimized ball-out for better latency where the MCH is installed to the motherboard PCB.  During testing Legit Reviews was able to hit 3-2-2 memory timings using un-released PC-5400 samples from Corsair Memory.  We were also able to use the 800MHz DDR2 BIOS option, giving us 800MHz DDR2 memory when running at only a 200MHz FSB.  Thankfully, it looks like Intel is listening to the needs and wants of the enthusiasts more and more these days!

The I/O Controller Hub (ICH7/R):

Intel High Definition Audio (Intel HD Audio) featuring eight independent DMA audio engines leads the least of awesome new features on the ICH7.  The new audio solution can handle 7.1 surround sound, Dolby Digitial, DTS, and DVD-Audio with ease.  The controller hub also has four SATA ports integrated onboard that allow for up to 3Gb/s of bandwidth for hard drives.  The ICH7 also comes with some new software called iAMT (Intel Active Management Technology, that will really help IT techs in business settings.  The ICH7R comes with Matrix Raid for the ability to run RAID in 0, 1, 5, and 10 formats.  Everything remains hot swapable and NCQ ready when the combined with the right drives.

Testing Setup

Individual Test Systems:

Testing Procedure:

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows XP Professional build 2600 with Service Pack 2 and DirectX 9.0c. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. No overclocking was done on the video card during any of this review.

How do you test dual core?  I pondered the thought for some time, and thought for the very first article that I should benchmark the 3.2GHz DC versus the 3.2GHz SC processor.  Then I took into consideration that the Intel 630 processor is priced just under $300, so comparing it to a ~$1000 CPU is not a fair.  I then settled on using the 3.73GHz Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor, since it's at an equal price point.  So, for this article I will be comparing the single core prescott versus the dual core Smithield to see the difference between DC and SC. At the same time I will also be running the fastest extreme edition processor to see how the 3.2GHz Smithfield EE stacks up to the 3.73GHz Pentium 4 EE.

Memory & HyperThreading Testing:

Having never used the i955X chipset with the new memory controller I went ahead and did some memory testing to see how tight I could get the timings.  At the same time I ran the testing with and without Hyperthreading enabled.  Below are the test results from one of the tests.

Comanche 4 Testing:

Intel Dual Core HyperThreading Testing

Running a few different single threaded gaming applications (Doom 3, FarCry, Comanche 4) it was determined that 3-2-2-8 timings would be used throughout the benchmarking.  Just like when HT first came out years ago, it can help or harm system performance depending on the systems configuration. Above you can see the importance of memory timings versus having Hyper Threading enabled and disabled.

Sandra / FutureMark

Sisoft; Sandra 2005 SR1:

SiSoftware, founded in 1995, is one of the leading providers of computer analysis, diagnostic and benchmarking software. The flagship product, known as "SANDRA", was launched in 1997 and has become one of the most widely used products in its field. SANDRA is used by almost 400 world-wide IT publications, magazines, review sites to analyse the performance of today?s computers.

Multi-Core Support: As well as SMP (multi-processor) and SMT (multi-threading/Hyper-Threading) support we have added multi-core support for future AMD and Intel CPUs. The benchmarks have been optimised to schedule the optimum number of threads on the optimum (virtual) CPU on both multi-core and Hyper-Threaded computers.

Intel 840 Sisoft Sandra

The first benchmark run on the Intel Pentium EE 840 was the Multi-Media benchmark. Since the 840 has double the core logic of the 640 one would expect the performance to almost double and it does.  The 840 processor achieves the highest Multi-Media scores that we have seen to date.

Intel 840 Sisoft Sandra

When it comes to the CPU Arithmetic it is basically the same exact situation again.  The Dhrystone and Whetstone scores double over the Intel P4 640 (3.2GHz, single core, EMT64, 2MB Cache) and easily beats out the faster clocked 3.73GHz Extreme Edition

Futuremark; 3DMark 2005 v1.2.0:

3DMark05 is best suited for the latest generation of DirectX 9.0 graphics cards. It is the first benchmark to require a DirectX9.0 compliant hardware with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher! By combining high quality 3D tests, CPU tests, feature tests, image quality tools, and much more, 3DMark05 is a premium benchmark for evaluating the latest generation of gaming hardware.

Intel 840 Sisoft Sandra

Moving over to 3DMark 05 version 1.2.0 we can see how dual core performs in a lightly threaded application. We don't see the Intel Pentium EE 840 double over the Intel P4 640, but the additional threads once again help push the Intel 840 into the lead.  When it came to overall benchmark score the Intel 840 came in behind the 3.73GHz.  (The 3.73GHz EE recieved 4920, the 840 made 4861, while the 630 reached 4878) 

Intel 840 Sisoft Sandra

Taking a quick look at the CPU Test details from the 3DMark05 test runs it can be seen that the Intel Pentium EE 840 processor has a slight lead in the average frames per second during testing.

PCMark04 & Cinebench 2003

Futuremark; PCMark04 v1.3.0:

PCMark04 is an application-based benchmark and a premium tool for measuring overall PC performance. It uses portions of real applications instead of including very large applications or using specifically created code. This allows PCMark04 to be a smaller installation as well as to report very accurate results. As far as possible, PCMark04 uses public domain applications whose source code can be freely examined by any user. 

Intel 840 PCMark04

PCMark04 is another free benchmark that has threaded content, and the CPU shows the boost in performance that the threads aid in.   

MAXON; CINEBENCH 2003:

CINEBENCH 2003 is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D R8. The tool is set to deliver accurate benchmarks by testing not only a computer's raw processing speed but also all other areas that affect system performance such as OpenGL, multithreading, multiprocessors and Intel's HT Technology. CINEBENCH 2003 includes render tasks that test the performance of up to 16 multiprocessors on the same computer

Intel 840 Cinebench

Cinebench 2003 really uses all four threads that the Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840 has available.  When single rendering the image the dual core processor barely beat the Intel 640, but all that changed when all multi CPU support was enabled.  The dual core design shaved off an amazing  50.7 seconds of rendering time!  That is a 2.17x speedup in rendering support.  A score of 618CB - CPU is the highest we have seen from any single desktop processor.

Intel 840 Cinebench

Here is a screen shot of Cinebench running on our test system while rendering Cinema 4D with all threads enabled.  Go ahead and count them and you can clearly see all four threads running at the same time.  Benchmarks like this really show that when threaded applications become mainstream a huge performance increase will be noted.

ScienceMark 2 / Everest 2.0

ScienceMark 2.0 Final:

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. Lower results (time in seconds) represent better performance. All of our testing was completed on the 32 Bit Final benchmark version that is dated March 21st 2005.

Intel 840 Everest

ScienceMark 2 has the dual core Intel 840 beating out the others in Molecular Dynamics, but comes in second place in Cipher and Primordia.  In Primordia the Intel 840 clocks in at 454 seconds, which beats the 477 seconds that the Intel 640 can do, but falls short of the 399 second finish of the 3.73GHz EE processor.

Everest Version 2.00.300 Beta:

Everst 2.0  is a professional system information, diagnostics and benchmarking program for Win32 platforms. It extracts details of all components of the PC. It also tests the actual read and write speeds of your memory giving a fairly accurate look of true memory performance.

Intel 840 Everest

Legit Reviews is not sure if Everest supports the latest dual core Intel processors.  These numbers seemed a bit low from what LR expected, so stay tuned for a closer look at the new memory controller. 

Game Testing

Intel 840 Everest

Conclusion

Conclusions:

Nathan Kirsch's Thoughts:

I have only had a few days to spend tinkering with this test system, so it is really too early to come to a solid conclusion on anything thus far.  Everyone knew Intel had dual core up and running, but the embargo lift on performance data was a shock to all of the media/press that works within the hardware industry,  Intel said that they wanted us to get a feel for the capabilities of dual core systems before the launch.  This means that today's April 4th embargo lift is not actually a launch date, it is simply for us to post our reviews and thoughts on the system for you, our readers.  Intel has not given us of a specific launch date or pricing on these products. 

The new 840 Processor/955X Express chipset will eventually enhance consumers computing capabilities thanks to dual core processors.  The ability to run four threads really shows when running multiple applications and processor intensive software that is designed for multiple threaded processors. Hopefully our readers have noticed that dual core doesn't do much when it comes to single threaded applications.  Intel is not positioning these first dual-core units as the highest-performing Intel parts for single-threaded applications/usages.  Since the initial dual cores are running at 3.2 GHz, they will trail some of the higher-clock speed Intel CPUs on single-threaded usages. But, as with all new releases, expect better performance as the technology matures.

I think we are really at the same spot the hardware industry was a year ago.  Intel processors have a quicker "feel" on the desktop when running applications thanks to hyper-threading, and now dual core processors while AMD processors, although still single core, still have better gaming performance and strong single thread performance. 

Legit Reviews will have more articles on dual core in the near future.  Although we didn't talk about overclocking, it is going well and we have been playing quite a bit. On the memory side of things we have gotten up to DDR2-907MHz and are currently getting around 4GHz out of the processor. Just to tease you a bit, take a look at the multipliers on our sample (14-60), the new BIOS has overclocking options up to 30% as well as the voltage options.  Has Intel really opened up to the idea of overclocking? Stay tuned as our next dual core article will be later this week, and will focus on overclocking these new chips.

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