Core 2 Quad LogoThe Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core Processor QX6700 is Intels first of many true Quad Core processors.  Four processing cores means separate, dedicated processing power for each and every data heavy application.  From Graphics to Games, these power-packed wonders are available now, months ahead of the competition.  But what’s the difference between your motherboard and one packing Quad-Core?   The answer lies not only in what the Intel Core 2 Quad-Core processors can do today, but what they’ll be ready for tomorrow!  Take a look at Quad-Core, and find out why you’re looking at the future of personal computing!

Quad Core: The Next Big Thing in Ultra-Performance Processors

The Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core Processors are the largest and most performance hungry of this new chip series.  But how do they accomplish the feats that they do?  What is it that makes them the next leap in processing innovation, and not just the next CPU in a progressive line of slightly faster, slightly better processors?

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What are Multi-Core Processors?

All processors are comprised of three things. The first is the core. The core is responsible for executing processing instructions and tasks. The next piece is the Die. This is the silver cover on the top of a processor.  The die covers the processor core (or cores).  The last component is the Package, the green material capped on top by the heat spreader, and laced with pins on the bottom.  It is important to note that the number of processor cores is not necessarily related to the number of dies, or vice versa.

Multi-core processing technology is the next stage in processor design theory.  A multi-core processor has at least two cores within a single unit. The CPU plugs directly into an existing single processor socket. The operating system recognizes each execution core as a discrete processor complete with its own set of execution resources.  The original generation of multi-core chips had two sets of dies with one core in each.  The Core 2 Duo series have two processing cores fitted under a single die. The Core 2 Quad-Core chips have an insane four processing cores, covered by two dies.  Each pair of cores is capped by a single die, creating a two-die, four-core CPU.  It is possible to place two dies in the same space originally occupied by one because of improvements in die-manufacturing processes.  This allows the manufacturer to make multi-core chips with relatively low production costs. The main disadvantage is that heat production doubles when two dies are placed on the same CPU. What matters in the end is that it’s a true Intel Core 2 Quad-Core chip:  four cores, all of which are capable of bearing a full processor load.Quad From top blue
 

How do more Cores speed up a system?

Traditional operating systems perform multitasking by briefly suspending one thread, switching to another, then reverting to the original or jumping to yet another thread. At any point the processor is running only a single thread. This means the computer trades multitasking for slower performance.   In instruction-level parallelism, instructions in a single thread are extracted, executed in parallel, and then recombined in the same order.  Intel HT Technology vastly improved multitasking functions by enabling multi-thread software applications to execute in parallel on a single-core processor.   Dual-core takes this a step further by running parallel threads through two separate execution cores in the same processor. Quad-core processors will eliminate the tradeoffs in multitasking by providing sufficient cores to give each thread its own execution pipeline and core, without blocking resources needed to run other software threads.  This strategy will radically improve multitasking performance as more applications are written to take advantage of quad-core equipped machines.
 

Quad Pretty blue screenThe Advent of Quad Core

Quad core technology requires the seamless union of several components in order for it to work properly.  The first and most obvious is hardware support.  Motherboards and BIOS updates must be able to recognize and run Quad-Core chips. Intel already has several boards that support all three of their Core 2 chips.  The next is the operating system, which must be capable of recognizing more than one available core. Microsoft and virtually all kinds of Linux distributors fully endorse multi-core chips.  The last obstacle is threading.  Threading refers to how a program divides the labor across multiple processors or across multiple cores within a single CPU. A thread is a stream of instructions related to a particular task a program is managing. Multi-threaded applications, or desktop programs that divide their labor, are relatively new.

Quad Core Brings Super-computing Home

Hyper-Threading Technology (HT Technology) along with Intels quad-core processors represent an evolution in mainstream computing. These technologies deliver the same parallel processing of high performance computing (HPC) to computer users everywhere.  Such massive performance capabilities are fast becoming necessary as the world’s data continues to increase at an astonishing rate.  Clustering hundreds of individual processors (as HPS systems do) is an impractical solution for mainstream PCs.  In server and IT applications, the office and the home, greater processing power will come from quad-core Intel platforms.

Star of the Show: The Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core Processor QX6700

The Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core QX6700 processor is the first desktop quad-core CPU.  It is a 64-bit CPU that maintains compatibility with IA-32 software.  Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core processor combines the performance and power efficiencies of four separate processing cores to enable a new era of multi-tasking, multi media, and gaming experience.Quad Extreme white

The Quad-cores Front Side Bus (FSB) uses a split-transaction, deferred reply protocol similar to the Intel Pentium 4 processor.  Front Side Bus refers to the interface between the processor and the system logic core, which is sometimes referred to as the chipset components.  The FSB is a multi-processing interface connecting to the processor, memory, and I/O.  The Front Side Bus is also called the processor system bus or just the system bus. 

All memory and I/O transactions (as well as interrupt messages) pass between the processor and chipset over the FSB.  The FSB in the Intel Quad-Core uses Source-Synchronous Transfer (SST) of address and data to improve performance. By transferring data four times per bus clock (4x data transfer rate, as in AGP 4x) Along with the 4x data bus, the address bus can deliver addresses two times per bus clock and is referred to as a “double-clocked” or 2x address bus. Working together, the 4x data bus and 2x address bus provide a data bandwidth of up to 8.5 GB/second.  The QX6700 includes an address bus power-down feature that removes power from the address and data signals when the FSB is not in use.  This feature is always enabled on the quad-core processor, and can lower power consumption and heat production.

Other Exciting Attributes

The Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core processor uses flip chip land grid array package technology. It plugs into a single 775 land surface mount Land Grid Array socket, also called the LGA775 socket.  This socket connection is already available on many Intel motherboards.  The Quad-Core Qx6700 is based on 65 nm process technology.

Cut away sans wordsIntels Quad-Core processor features Intel 64 Architecture, an enhancement of Intels IA-32 architecture.  This enables the processor to execute operating systems and applications written specifically to take advantage of the Intel 64 architecture design.  The processor also supports enhanced Intel Speedstep technology. Speedstep allows for tradeoffs between CPU performance and power consumption, based on the way the processor is utilized.  In conjunction with OS support, this may lower average power consumption significantly.

Good For Software, Too

The QX6700 Quad-Core also supports Intels Virtualization technology.   Virtualization technology provides silicon-based functionality that works together with compatible Virtual Machine Monitor software (VMM) to improve upon software-only solutions.  Because this virtualization hardware provides a new architecture upon which the operating system can run directly, it removes the need for binary translation. This helps eliminate associated performance overhead and vastly simplifies the design of the VMM. This allows virtual machine monitor software to be more robust and written to a common standard.  This virtualization technology maximizes each processors multi-tasking performance.  It does this by separating the computer into numerous virtual systems, all running different applications.  In theory, this allows for game-play on one processor core, watching a movie with another, hosting a web server on the third, and running a database on the fourth.

What Benefits can I expect from Quad-Core Processing?

Currently there are only a handful of applications that benefit significantly from quad-core processors. These applications are the kind that always benefit from more powerful processing capacity. 3D graphics rendering for still scenes. DVD compression for portable movie files. Compressing CD tracks into MP3s.  Generally speaking, anything that requires a large amount of complicated mathematics to function properly. In these types of applications, the multiple processor cores can work together to crunch large sets of numbers.  The current host of video games will reap fewer immediate benefits from a quad-core processor because developers have only recently began to harness the power that dual core offers.

Outfitted for the Future

Quad COre Extreme LogoIt is important to realize that the advantages of Quad-core processing do not lie in immediately revolutionizing game play.  Instead, think about how much better games will be with separate processors for each of the four major gaming components.  Multi-core processors will allow game developers to separate tasks between the different cores.  The added processing power will give designers the freedom to create more rigorous 3d rendering, physics, sound and computer AI.

Even with a dual-core system, assisting a graphic card processor with 3D rendering and physics can take up more than one core each. Sound and computer AI can fill up the rest, pushing the two cores to the limit. If each core is dedicated separately to physics, assisting the graphics card, for physics/graphics spillover, and sound/AI, developers would have an increase in versatility. A whole processor could finally be donated to each function that was once sandwiched into a single core.  Developers and companies will bring the dual-core bandwagon to powerhouse game titles and enterprise business solutions.  Experience the Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core processor.  Reap the benefits of the technology that ushered in the evolution of Quad-Core computing!

 Related Links: Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core QX6700, Intel