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Intel launches dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition

But who's shipping systems?

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Intel today formally launched its dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor, as anticipated with Dell, Velocity Micro and Alienware all "selling" systems based on the chip. The vendor said nothing though about the availability of the 130W chips themselves.

If said PC vendors are also shipping PEE-based systems from today, that might be seen to put a stick in the spokes of AMD's dual-core Opteron launch, due to take place on Thursday, by all accounts. AMD is said to have brought forward the Opteron launch to get in ahead of Intel, which has likewise accelerated the 840 roll-out to ensure it's ahead of the game. AMD claims to have been sampling dualies since January, but Intel's not offered product much later than that - it had them out and about in February.

Who cares? It's widespread availability that matters, and so far neither company has been able to offer that. In any case, neither company is the first to ship a dual-core processor in commercial quantities - IBM's been doing it for some time, though you'd have a job getting one of its Power chips to work in a desktop.

Intel also launched today the 955X chipset, formerly known by its codename, 'Glenwood', which provides the system logic to support the 3.2GHz, HyperThreading-enabled PEE processor and its 800MHz frontside bus, though it will also support a 1066MHz bus. The 955X also supports up to 8GB of ECC-enabled DDR 2 memory clocked at up to 667MHz. There's PCI Express x16 for graphics, along with six PCI-E x1 lanes for regular add-in cards. The chipset can handle up to eight USB 2.0 ports, and four 3Gbps Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and Intel Matrix RAID support.

A 955X costs $50. The PEE 840 almost 20 times that figure, $999, and that's when sold in batches of 1000 chips. Still, it's no more than previously released Extreme Edition processors, so punters are essentially getting the second core for free.

The chip giant has a 955X-based mobo on the market now too: the lead-free D955XBK, which incorporates an LGA755 socket for the CPU; eight Serial ATA ports - four rated at 3Gbps, the rest at 1.5Gbps - a Gigabit Ethernet controller; 400Mbps and 800Mbps Firewire ports; one x16, one x4 and one x1 PCI-E connectors; three PCI slots; HD Audio with S/PDIF, ADAT and Dolby Digital Live support, plus Intel's Audio Studio software incorporating Sonic Focus' MARS audio-processing system. ®

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