Processor & Process Details
The big story with regard to Presler and the Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955 processor, is Intel's move to a smaller, more advanced 65nm manufacturing process, well ahead of rival AMD. Pentium processors based on the Prescott core, and dual-core Smithfield based CPUs, were built using the company's 'Strained SI' 90nm manufacturing process. But moving forward, the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 and future Intel Desktop, Mobile, and Server processors will be manufactured using this new 65nm process, which should help Intel get more usable dice from a single 300mm wafer, which should in-turn allow the company to introduce lower-priced processors while maintaining their bottom line.
It is well known that Intel's manufacturing capabilities are second to none in the industry. The chart above shows the pace at which Intel has introduced new technology generations. As you can see, roughly every two years for the past couple of decades, Intel has consistently introduced new manufacturing processes that have allowed them to scale their processors to higher clock speeds, incorporate larger caches, and introduce new core technologies, among other things.
With their new 65nm process, Intel is quick to point out that their current transistor technology is unmatched in the industry. The image above, produced using an electron microscope, shows the minuscule 1.2nm distance between a Polysilicon gate and the Silicon substrate, and the 35nm gate length of a typical 65nm generation transistor manufactured on Intel's line.
The cooler included with the new Pentium Extreme Edition 955 processor looks much like the model bundled with previous LGA775 based Pentium processors. This cooler is slightly taller and has more individual fins, however. The cooler is made of aluminum, with a solid copper core, and is equipped with a variable speed fan. It is mounted using the same four plastic push-pins as previous Intel LGA775 coolers.
If you're familiar with any of Intel's LGA775 based processors and lets face it, if you're a HotHardware reader you probably are, the new Pentium Extreme Edition 955 will look very familiar to you. The 955XE shares the same integrated heat spreader and packaging as previous Pentiums, but underneath that heat spreader and on the processor's underside it is very different. As you can see, the underside of the CPU is adorned with a multitude of capacitors, many more than older Intel CPUs. And underneath the heat spreader are two distinct Cedar Mill dies (two Cedar Mill dies = one Presler), connected through the processor's packaging substrate. If you recall, the Smithfield core used on the Extreme Edition 840 was basically two Prescott cores linked together to form one large die. Incorporating two individual dies onto one package like this, should help Intel with yields on the 955XE and other dual-core Presler based processors, because the dies can come from two different parts of the same wafer, or even two different wafers altogether.
We fired up the latest version of CPU-Z and Task Manager to visually illustrate some of the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 processor's main features. Because this is a dual-core CPU, and each individual core has Hyper-Threading enabled, the 955XE appears as four virtual processors in a supported operating system like Windows XP. Each core is clocked at 3.46GHz and rides along on a 1066MHz front side bus (266MHz quad-pumped). Each core is equipped with 2MB of full-speed L2 cache, for a grand total of 4MB. And the CPU requires a mere 1.2v - 1.33v to operate. Please note that CPU-Z only reports the details from a single core, so the details in the third screenshot above are identical for the second core. We should also note that the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 has full support for Intel's Virtualization technology, which gives users the ability to run multiple operating systems in independant environments, full support for EM64T to run 64-bit operating systems, and the Execute Disable Bit to prevent against certain types of malware driven buffer-overflow attacks.