Deerfield . . .

Intel has announced its “low-cost” version of Itanium, code-named Deerfield.

It runs at either 1 GHz or 1.4 GHz, has 256K L2 cache and 1.5MHz L3 cache, and costs $744 and $1,172 respectively.

Why should you care? Well, I’m not saying you should care very much, just realize that . . .

Itaniums Aren’t A Joke Anymore

OK, you’re not going to run out and buy one tomorrow or next year or 2006, but Itaniums have been making progress under the radar screen.

The main architectural difference between these chips and “big” Itaniums is cache. “Big” Itaniums have 6Mb on-die cache, while the Deerfield have 1.5Mb of L3 cache. Otherwise, they’re basically the same.

If you look at recent Spec CPU2000 scores
you’ll see that 1.5GHz Itanium2s nudge 2GHz Opterons in the integer tests, and beat them by over 50% in the floating point tests.

A 1.4GHz Deerfield should be only a bit less capable in pure computational power (what the difference the extra cache makes remains to be seen, but then Opterons aren’t loaded for bear there, either) than a “big” Itanium (OK, the 1GHz version is still uncompetitively underpowered).

Yes, a 1.4GHz Deerfield is significantly more expensive than a top-end Opteron, but there’s a big difference between laying out an extra $500 and laying out an extra $3,500, even to workstation power users. For that price difference, many builderes and buyers may start to let their inner Intel-bias out.

Yes, Opteron can play well enough with both 32 and 64-bit code, while Itaniums can’t play the 32-bit ballgame very well, and that will remain a decisive factor for many if not most.

Nor does it seem like Intel plans to move Itanium to the desktop for years to come. We’ll have one more new x86 generation (Nehalem) before Intel is likely to make the desktop 64-bit plunge.

However, Deerfield makes Intel much more competitive than it was before (if not quite very competitive quite yet) against Opterons on the high-end. It will be a niche product, but a niche product is better than a microscopic one, which is all Itanium has been up to now.



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