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Xeon 5150 vs. E5320

Author:  Jason Jacobs
Date:  2007.03.29
Topic:  Processors
Provider:  Intel
Manufacturer:  Intel

Xeon 5150 vs. E5320

Xeon Logo


Intel and AMD have each had their own CPU's targeted towards the server market for a long time now. With the relatively recent arrival of multiple core CPU's to the mainstream market one is left wondering what the difference between the current mainstream Intel Core 2 Duo (code named Conroe) processor and a Xeon really is. It stands to reason that if a consumer is going to purchase an E6700 for roughly $550 why not spend the extra $100 and get its big brother the Xeon 5150, surely the extra $100 is worth all the extra horsepower you will gain isn't it? Wouldn't it be the difference between lets say a Ford Mustang and a Jaguar? Let's find out!

All those lovely CPU's:

Chip makers have traditionally had three to four series of chips in their lineup and often more. One for the low end market, one for the mainstream, one targeted towards the high end, and one meant for servers. For a long time now Intel's server offering has been the Xeon processor. The differences between the Xeon and the Pentium has been numerous but the basic differences are:

  1. SMP Support (symmetric multi-processing): The ability for an individual CPU to speak to additional CPU's when handling tasks.
  2. Cache Size (Xeon's traditionally have more cache then their Pentium equivalents)
  3. Micro architecture (the internal wiring and layout of the CPU)

These three differences separate a standard Pentium from a Xeon. The most important of which is SMP. AMD and Intel have been quite publicly pushing the concept of multiple cores for years now, but what is the difference between multiple cores and SMP?

Normal Processor Task Manager4 core Processor Task Manager8 core task manager

  • SMP: As discussed earlier SMP is the ability for one CPU to talk to another. In the case of the Xeon this means that one socket is communicating through the motherboard to the other socket on the motherboard. We are assuming here that both sockets are populated with a CPU. Each CPU has been designed internally with the ability to process information from another CPU thus helping to balance workload and speed up processing time by effectively splitting the tasks among the two processors in the system.
  • Multi-Core: Multiple cores sprang out of the concept of traditional SMP (with multiple CPU sockets on the motherboard). For all its benefits, SMP has a flaw (or at least a sub-ideal design) of being tied to the communication rate of the motherboard. Each processor can only communicate with the other as fast as the motherboard allows it to. Engineers thus decided that placing both CPU's closer together was the key, and how much closer can you get than on the same die? A multiple core processor has the same appearance as a single CPU, however, on the inside, the die is split into two distinct halves, each of which is a discrete processor (minus a few pieces of shared resources, including L2 cache and the FSB). The two are joined together in a manner that allows each to communicate with the other and split tasks in essentially the same manner as traditional SMP. The result is task splitting, and consequently task accomplishment occurs faster than an SMP enabled system can.

Xeon 5150 bottom showing 771 Pin Layout

So what's the difference, which one is better, and why is Xeon still around if multiple cores do it faster? The answer is not so easy. Put simply Xeon's still do a better job for certain applications due to being optimized internally for those applications and the types of work those applications involve. Traditionally applications tend to receive the greatest benefit from either a certain aspect of a system or a combination of aspects. These tend to be in one of the following areas:

  • Clock speed (MHz)
  • Memory (Both Cache and Ram)
  • Multi-Core Aware (multiple cpu, or multiple core)

Example: Microsoft Office 95, XP, 2000, 2003 is not a multiple core, multiple CPU aware suite of programs and would thus benefit more greatly from increased clock speeds or additional ram than adding another CPU, or a multiple core CPU. That is not to mean that adding multiple cpus, or a multi-core processor won't have benefits, it means instead that the benefits would be greater if the consumer simply increased the clock speed of the single CPU or added more Ram if possible.


Next The Xeon's Explained


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