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Monday, June 26, 2006, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Intel unleashes Mac-bound "Woodcrest" chip

Intel Corporation on Monday formally took the wraps off its dual-core Xeon Processor 5100 series of high-volume server and workstation chips, previously codenamed "Woodcrest."

The world's largest chip maker said the new chips deliver up to 135 percent performance improvements and up to 40 percent reduction in energy consumption over previous Intel server products.

They're the first processors to take advantage of the company's new Core microarchitecture, a power-sensitive blueprint design that also includes several innovations to improve performance. Two other Core-based chips designed for desktops (Conroe) and notebooks (Merom) will make their debut in July and August, respectively.

Intel will initially ship the Xeon 5100 series at speeds of up to 3.0GHz, the company said, which will pack a faster 1333MHz front side bus and 4 megabytes of shared L2 cache.

The 65-nanometer chips are "drop-in compatible" as part of Intel’s "Bensley Platform," which introduces faster and more reliable memory technology called FB-DIMMs, Intel Virtualization Technology, Intel Active Server Manager and Intel I/O Acceleration Technology.

"Simply put, the Core microarchitecture is a technical marvel that is driving a new era of power efficiency without compromising on what can only be described as eye-popping dual-core 64-bit performance," said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group.

The top-of-the-line 3.0GHz Xeon 5100 will ship with a thermal design point (TDP) of 80 watts with all others models rated at 65W. In the third quarter, Intel plans an even lower voltage version at 2.33 GHz with a TDP of just 40 watts.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company expects the Xeon 5100 family of processors to be the fastest-ramping product in its corporate history, and has set pricing for the chips from $209 to $851 in 1,000-unit quantities, depending on features.

Intel, which has been losing ground to rival AMD in the server market, hopes the new line of low-power chips will stop the bleeding and help it regain lost market share.

The chips are also likely contenders to power a revamped line of Apple Xserve computers and possibly find their way into the Mac maker's professional line of Mac Pro desktops, due out by August.

Intel had previously said that it will introduce a 3.2GHz version of Woodcrest later in the year.