Dell will begin shipping its first servers and workstations running quad-core Intel processors in a two-socket configuration in the US next week.

The firm will feature the Quad-Core Xeon 5300 processor from Intel on its PowerEdge rack and blade-style servers, and in Precision workstations, which a Dell executive said is a better-performing configuration than a dual-core, four-socket setup.

"We actually see, with the introduction of our new quad-core systems, that this is the beginning of the end of the four-socket marketplace over the next three or four years," said Neil Hand, vice-president of worldwide enterprise marketing for Dell.

A quad-core processor is built with four processors together on the same die. A socket is the place in a computer where the processor plugs in. By putting four cores in one processor, computer performance can be enhanced with only two sockets instead of four. Multicore chips allow a computer to split up heavy workloads more easily for faster performance.

Dell claims quad cores in a dual-socket server configuration can deliver 63 percent better computing performance, and 40 percent better performance per watt, than dual-core processors in four sockets.

Dell is joining other vendors in bringing quad-core based servers to market. IBM features quad-core Power processors on its System P line of servers, while HP is set to launch new workstations running the same Intel Xeon 5300 processor Dell is using next week.

AMD, Intel's chief rival in the chip business, is scheduled to launch a quad-core processor in mid-2007. When it does, Dell will be ready to offer the AMD processor along with its Intel-powered models, Hand said.