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Intel has earned the right to lay it on four-cores thick. The chipmaker today officially released versions of its four-core server and PC chips. The appearance of the 'Clovertown' and 'Kentsfield' processors gives Intel both a marketing and raw performance edge over AMD, which doesn't plan to fire up its own four-core gear in earnest until 2007. So, those looking for the best of the best will turn to Intel for the time being.

Those of you aiming to purchase Intel's latest kit will want to look for the Xeon Processor 5300 Series chips on the server, and the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 on the desktop - see our review of the chip. Both the server and PC chips can plug into existing dual-core Intel-based systems.

All in all, there isn't much magic to Intel's final quad-core reveal. The company has been promising to deliver the new chips for months, hoping to end a three-year slump against AMD. And by most accounts Intel has succeeded in this goal.

Initially, Intel will ship four versions of the Xeon 5300 Series chips. Three of these chips will consume 80W, while a higher-powered version will chew through 120W. In the first quarter of next year, Intel plans to release a 50W part as well.

Reporters were shown an impressive list of benchmarks where the 80W Xeons creamed AMD's latest and greatest Opteron chips. As expected, multi-threaded applications showed the most dramatic speed up, running between 2x and 4x faster on Intel's new gear.

"I think it is fair to say we deliver unquestioned leadership in the server market at this point," said Intel VP Steve Smith in an interview with El Reg.

To help entice customers that defected to AMD to return to the fold, Intel is charging the same price for the mainstream four-core chips that it charged for dual-core chips.

The benefits of a four-core chip in the desktop market are less obvious given a relative lack of multi-threaded software.

That said, customers can expect to see major speeds up with 64-bit OSes, media software and gaming applications. In addition, engineers looking for the speediest workstations will likely lean toward Intel's new kit.

"I would not be surprised if we ship more than 1 million units before the competition ships its first quad-core chip," Smith said.

The high-end Xeon X5355 running at 2.66GHz with a 1,333MHz front side bus starts at $1,172 in volume purchases. The 2.33GHz E5345 with a 1333MHz front side bus costs $851, the 1.86GHz E5320 with a 1,066MHz front side bus costs $690, and the 1.60GHz E5310 with a 1,066MHz front side bus costs $455.

The desktop chip running at 2.66GHz with a 1,066MHz front side bus costs $999. ®

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