Intel is making good on its promise to deliver Xeon processors with 64-bit extensions. Officially dubbed Extended Memory 64 Technology, it allows Intel to bust the 32-bit architecture's 4GB RAM limit; it can now address up to 1TB. The new chip, once codenamed Nocona, runs at 3.6GHz, is now hyper-threaded, uses a 800MHz front-side bus, and is fabricated using the new 90nm geometry.

Other features include demand-based switching with SpeedStep, currently used in Intel's mobile processor range. It allows the system to lower the clock speed when the CPU is idling and it will, according to Intel's European strategic marketing manager Alan Priestley, allow higher server densities because of lower power consumption. It can also address DDR2 memory which offers lower power consumption - some 30-40 per cent lower according to Priestley - but also provides about 10 per cent higher bandwidth. DDR2 is denser that DDR too, contributing to power savings.

Priestley emphasised the company's view that it was launching not just a chip but a platform. The accompanying chipset, the E7525, that supports the new chip is being targeted at workstations and includes multimedia enhancements such as SSE3. The server version appears in August and we'll bring those details as soon as possible. When installed alongside the Xeon though, maximum system memory is 16GB, a limit imposed by the chipset not the CPU. However, the chipset also allows Xeons to be installed with a PCI Express bus which itself is 50 per cent faster than old-fashioned PCI.

Among the benefits of PCI Express are support for double-speed, 16x AGP graphics, integrated hot-pluggability, and mainly the fact that the system bus will no longer be chugging along trying to keep up with the rest of the componentry, most of which has enjoyed several speed hikes since PCI's 1993 advent.

Priestley added than the new Xeon remains compatible with AMD's Opteron down to OS level, and averred that it had not come under pressure from major OEMs - such as Dell - to bring forward its release schedule as a result of AMD's 64-bit Opteron launch.

Intel’s list prices in quantities of 1,000 are: 3.6GHz – $851 (approx. £473); 3.4GHz – $690 (approx. £383); 3.2GHz – $455; 3GHz – $316 (approx. £176); 2.8GHz – $209 (approx. £116). The price of the Intel E7525 chipset, also available today, is $100 (approx. £55)based on 1,000 units.