Review: Intel's Harpertown LV Processor

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Last week, Santa Clara, Calif.- based Intel released two new, energy-efficient, low-voltage 45 nanometer (nm) Quad-Core processors into its arsenal: the 2.50 Ghz Xeon L5420 and the 2.33 Ghz Xeon L5410, both with twelve megabytes of on-die cache.

The Test Center compared the new, 45nm second-generation Xeon L5420 (also known as Harpertown 2.5 LV) to last year's 65nm first-generation Xeon L5335 (also known as Clovertown 2.0 LV) to see if it lived up to Intel's claims of performance boost with the same power consumption. Both processors are specified to run at 50 watts, or 12.5 watts per core, each.

(Intel engineers say that they've essentially created a faster chip that still draws the same amount of power per core.)

The Test Center's test bed included two, identical CPUs -- one built with Xeon L5420s, the other built with the older Xeon L 5335s -- installed on a dual socket Intel S5000PSL motherboard, which in turn was installed into an Intel SC5400 Series chassis with 16GB of RAM and SATA optical and HD drives. Our benchmarking tool of choice was Primate Labs Geekbench 2.0 running on the Windows 2008 Server Enterprise platform.

First up was the Xeon L5335 with a total Geekbench score of 5308. While running the tests, total power draw fluctuated between 288 and 314 watts, with peaks as high as 343 watts.

In comparison, the Xeon L5420 had a total Geekbench score of 5446, with power draw varying from 268 to 300 watts, peaking at 321 watts. At idle, the L5335 system drew 276 watts; and the L5420 system, 261 watts for the entire system, all-inclusive with fans, the hard drive spinning, and the power supply in and of itself. Intel specifications rate the CPU's idle draw at 16 watts, per processor.

Although our tests didn't yield as high an efficiency as Intel's (their tests resulted in an average of 30 percent improvement in performance per watt), it is clear that the newer 5400 series processors definitely show measurably better performance while showing measurably better efficiency.

The L5420 and L5410 are priced respectively at $380 and $320 each per thousand units.

Designed to optimize space, the new processors are great for blade and rack systems. Besides getting a performance boost with significantly less power consumption; since they don't generate as much heat, the L5410 and L5420 processors are easier to cool, which consequentially makes for a quieter environment, as well as adding to the overall savings. (Within seconds of completing the testing on the L5420 chips, they were surprisingly cool to the touch when taken out of the test bed.)

The new CPU series is socket compatible with existing Quad-Core and Dual-Core Xeon 5x00 Processor based platforms and should be considered both for businesses looking to upgrade, in addition to those starting from scratch.

Over its lifetime, especially when multiplied by numerous processors per data center, the L5410 and L5420 will benefit companies looking to reduce power consumption without compromising performance.

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