Dell scoops up Intel's new Penryn chips for workstations

Dell is quick out of the gate, beating rivals HP and Lenovo to the Penryn punch

Dell is the first PC vendor out of the gate to ship workstations with Intel's brand new 45-nanometer Penryn microprocessors.

The company on Tuesday announced plans to unveil two new Dell Precision workstations that use Intel's quad-core and dual-core Xeon processors. Intel released its Penryn family of 45nm processors earlier this month. While other major PC vendors are expected to offer systems running Intel's latest offering, Dell was quick to beat rivals like Lenovo Group and Hewlett-Packard Co. to the punch.

The new Dell Precision T5400 and the Dell Precision T7400 workstations, both running quad-core chips, are available immediately. Systems based on dual-core Penryns are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2008.

Both Precision machines have a dual-socket design that's geared to support up to two multicore processors. The workstations also have dual, full-performance PCI Express Gen2 x16 graphics slots, as well as a dual independent front-side bus design, which is expected to provide a fast data path between processors.

When the Penryn chips were released, analysts were quick to note that they expected the new microprocessors to give a significant performance boost to gamers, researchers and serious multitaskers.

To make the jump from 65nm to 45nm processors, Intel designed a new transistor that stems leakage and improves energy efficiency. The transistor is the building block of the processor. And Intel changed out critical materials in its redesign, trading polysilicon for a metal gate and using hafnium oxide as an insulator. The better insulation means there's less energy leakage, and the metal gate is a better conductor. With 820 million of these newly designed transistors in just one chip, Intel is calling it one of its biggest advancements.

On the desktop side, all of this should add up to a major performance bump, analysts said.

Dean Freeman, an analyst at Gartner, said he expects the Penryn technology to be 20 percent to 50 percent faster than Intel's previous chip releases for general-purpose applications and 10 percent to 40 percent faster for technical applications, multimedia and games.

"Basically, it means that for those of us who are concerned about the speed at which applications work on our desktop, the good news is that it will work faster," said Freeman in a previous interview.

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