Apple first out of the blocks with new generation Xeon (Nehalem) processor

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This week Apple lifted the lid on Intel’s new Xeon processor, way in advance of the other major workstation vendors, and, much to our amazement, even in advance of Intel itself. The Quad Core chip will feature at the heart of all new Mac Pro desktop systems.

The Xeon version of the Core i7 (Nehalem) chip is no secret, but bizarrely there is still no mention of it on Intel’s website, and from what I understand Intel and all the major workstation vendors won’t ‘officially’ be talking about the new chip until the end of the month.

While it’s intriguing as to why Apple can talk about the processor while other hardware manufacturers can’t, what’s more important is what this chip will offer the CAD/CAM/CAE sector. Intel’s Xeon (Nehalem) is very much like Core i7, but unlike the Core i7 will be available in dual socket workstations. This means heaps of power for multithreaded applications, with the most obvious beneficiary being rendering which scales very well across multiple cores. While dual socket Quad Core workstations have been available for some time, what makes the Xeon (Nehalem) different is that it supports HyperThreading, which splits each physical core in to two. The first part of the core does the lion’s share of processing, while the other part squeezes in additional computational tasks as and when there is spare capacity.

For a dual processor Xeon workstation this means access to 16 cores in total (eight physical and eight logical) and while many CAD/CAM/CAE applications can’t take advantage of multi core processors, let alone HyperThreading, applications like 3ds Max, HyperShot and CAD-resident renderers will lap it up, so expect never been seen before levels of processing power on the desktop.

If you can’t wait until the end of the month, when all the major workstation manufacturers will be announcing their new Xeon (Nehalem) based workstation line ups, you could always go out and get your hands on a shiny new Mac Pro. After all, as Al Dean points out in his comment in the March edition of DEVELOP3D, Macs are back in a big way! Register here to make sure you bag yourself a copy.