Intel Pentium D 960 Processor

The Blue Camp's Dual-Core Salvo

The Blue Camp's Dual-Core Salvo

Quite frankly, we thought the Pentium 965 Extreme Edition from Intel was the last attempt at rivaling AMD with their existing Presler based CPUs. While we are still right that they haven't put up any speedier models than they already have, a check recently on their Pentium D lineup online saw yet another silent addition – the Pentium D 960. Following their model number nomenclature, the Pentium D 960 is part of their mainstream dual-core offering (albeit on the higher-end side) that still utilizes the somewhat limited 800MHz FSB for communication and data transfer to and fro the processor, but the core clock has now been bumped up to 3.6GHz. Still not the highest clock speed for an Intel dual-core processor, but it healthily surpasses the Pentium XE 955 and that should make for an interesting comparison. Lets take a quick look at how the various models stack up with each other:-

Intel Pentium D 900 Series Compared
Processor Model / Processor Characteristics Clock Speed Front Side Bus (MHz) L2 Cache Icc (max) (A) TDP (W)
Pentium D 960 3.6GHz 800 2MB x 2 125 130
Pentium D 950 3.4GHz 800 2MB x 2 125 130
Pentium D 940 3.2GHz 800 2MB x 2 125 130
Pentium D 930 3.0GHz 800 2MB x 2 100 95
Pentium D 920 2.8GHz 800 2MB x 2 100 95

The entire Pentium D 900 series have a very unified feature and specification list that they only differ from each other in the form of clock speed and power draw. This makes the lineup ostensibly very identifiable as opposed to AMD Athlon 64 X2 processors at the moment. On the other hand, we can't say the same for their existing Pentium 4 lineup, which while being well differentiated with various model numbers, have become rather confusing due to the variety. Thankfully, that's not an issue (yet) with the comparatively newer lineups where processor features have been relatively settled. Take note that the old Pentium D 800 series, which is Intel's first lineup of dual-core processors, are still lingering in retail. Though its performance isn't too far behind the 900 series, we advise against opting for them (besides the 805 budget model) since the Pentium D 900 series are officially priced lower than the 800 series. Hence you only stand to gain for the same outlay.

The new Pentium D 960 processor is available in retail as soon as it was 'soft' launched and the packaging is akin to the existing models.

In this article, we’ve lined up the entire Pentium D 900 series which involves all five processors, along with a couple of Athlon 64 X2 processors to give you an idea how they rank. More importantly, we'll be focusing on Intel's latest Pentium D 960 model and have pitted it up against the Intel Pentium 955 Extreme Edition processor as well as AMD's current best X2 model. Before we embark on this interesting comparison, take a moment to freshen yourself on how the mainstream dual-core CPUs stack up in features and characteristics:-

Mainstream Dual-Core CPUs Compared
Processor Name Intel Pentium D AMD Athlon 64 X2
Processor Model(s) 920, 930, 940, 950, 960 3800+, 4000+, 4200+, 4400+, 4800+
Processor Frequency 2.80GHz - 3.60GHz 2.0GHz - 2.4GHz
No. of Cores 2 2
Hyper-Threading Technology No -
No. of Logical Processors 2 2
Front Side Bus (MHz) 800 -
HyperTransport Bus - 1GHz (2000MT/s)
L1 Cache (data + instruction) (16KB + 12KB) x 2 (64KB + 64KB) x 2
L2 Cache 2MB x 2 (512KB x 2) or (1MB x 2)
VID (V) 1.20 -1.3375 1.35
Icc (max) (A) 100 - 125 65 - 80
TDP (W) 95 - 130 89 - 110
Execute Disable Bit Yes Yes
Intel EM64T / AMD64 Yes Yes
Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST) / AMD Cool 'n' Quiet No Yes
Virtualization Technology Yes No
Packaging LGA775 Socket-939
Process Technology 65nm 90nm SOI
Processor Codename Presler Toledo
Die Size 162mm² 147 - 199mm²
(depending on cache size)
No. of Transistors 376 million 154 - 233.2 million
(depending on cache size)

One thing's for sure, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 series are more environmentally friendlier than the Intel counterparts as far as the specifications go. With lower thermals and support for AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet technology for even more power savings and low noise operation, this is one area that Intel is finding it hard to rival even with their advanced 65nm silicon process technology.

An added reservation we have on Intel's Pentium D 900 series is the lack of incorporating the Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST). Though the specs mark that the Pentium D 900 series as having EIST support, if you traverse through their online Processor Spec Finder, you would be surprised to find that none of the 900 series CPUs have EIST support as of now. Intel did make a mention previously that another revision in the second half of this year would support that, but we doubt that remark since Core 2 Duo for the desktop would likely be out then. In its absence, the Pentium D 900 series do have Virtualization Technology support built in, though we would have much rather had EIST available as well. While these processors definitely run cooler than their preceding 800 series models, EIST would only serve to better that standard. The higher speed variants approaching the Extreme Edition variants still run hot, especially in tropical environments and EIST could lend a helping hand here. For more information of the Presler core used in the Pentium D 900 series, we have had that covered in our previous article over here . Feature differences aside, if you ready to brace yourself on the test results of the Pentium D 900 series, read on and find out if those performance figures can make up for what they lack.