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Frequency benefits of Ivy Bridge to benefit the higher-end Ivy Bridge-EP too

The desktop Ivy Bridge is just two months away, and it's tremendous frequency headroom is already well known. What then about its high-end Ivy Bridge-EP Xeon sibling half a year later?

We all know by now that the upcoming Ivy Bridge desktop CPUs not only save power, but also can hit the roof with their clock speed headroom. The Core i7 3770K is expected to be able to pass 5 GHz easily with any decent air cooling, after all, despite the 'only' 3.5 GHz stock frequency before the Turbo kicks in.

Obviously, the benefits of 22 nm Tri-gate 3-D transistors in the new semicon process, as well as refined design with a very small die, are showing there. How about its larger high-end sibling, the 10-core Ivy Bridge-EP, aimed at workstations and servers sometime around – or after – end 2012?

Yes, you heard it right – as uncovered by another web site recently, who had a look at the early chip sample, the Ivy Bridge refresh of the Xeon E5 series, in the same Socket 2011 format, will have 10 cores, each of them with a 2.5 MB cache block for a total of 25 MB shared L3 cache. There will also be a speed up of the memory channels to quad-channel DDR3-1866 server memory capability, with everything else staying pretty much the same.

Except for power and speed, of course – the website that posted the CPU-Z of the new chip is a confirmation of what we expected: even for a large die with server-related constraints and tougher validation, the new process enabled two speed bins up within the same power envelope. So, while the Xeon E5 2660, a 2.2 GHz 8-core 95W part, is the matching one here in the current lineup for March this year, the follow on seen on this site is a 2.4 GHz 10-core part in the same 95W TDP window.

Another leak shows a 2.8 GHz 105W TDP Ivy Bridge – EP CPU, this time with an unexpected 30 MB L3 cache, i.e. 3 MB per CPU. Even more intriguing is the CPU-Z detection of the processors as Ivy Bridge EP/EX, as the EX part is supposed to be a different platform aimed at 8P and above systems, in a different socket with more QPI links, and likely sharing that socket with the further future Haswell-EX. Yes, you guessed right, there will be no SandyBridge-EX.

Now, this is an early part, with at least 10 months away from actual launch in the best case, if Intel pushes Ivy Bridge-EP out faster – for which the current competitive situation doesn't give them any reason, unfortunately. The usual few steppings before the final launch should give us further refinement on the clock front too, probably allowing 15-20% extra clock despite a quarter more cores inside.

If we extrapolate it to the upcoming E5 Sandy Bridge-EP top-bin, the 3.1 GHz 150W Xeon E5 2687W for workstations, that means its successor in the Ivy Bridge-EP series could be as fast as 3.6 GHz 10-core in the same socket and power envelope. Of course, it'd be able to reach 4 GHz even just with Turbo, on all the cores, without any extra OC or such. Wow!

So, the biggies can scale well up too, now let's see how to justify a business case for unlocking the darn multipliers there too. However, if such luxury does come out, be ready to pay for it – the extra validation, binning and other overheads to cost money, after all…   

Nebojsa Novakovic
In the spare time over the past two decades, editor and writer of high-end computer hardware and design features and analysis for European and US media and analyst houses. Reviews of high end hardware are my specialty for 28 years already.

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