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AMD’s Bulldozer And Bobcat Architectures Pave The Way

AMD’s Bulldozer And Bobcat Architectures Pave The Way
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Ahead of its most significant processor redesign since 2003, AMD is talking about its Bulldozer and Bobcat architectures, both of which are expected in 2011. Will AMD be able to catch up, or even surpass Intel's lead? The future looks interesting, indeed.

Seven years have passed since AMD first launched its K8 “Hammer” microarchitecture, which was updated three years ago by K10. Brand new, the Athlon 64 processors based on K8 kicked ass and took names, flying past Intel’s Pentium 4 processors to become enthusiast favorites.

But the performance landscape changes quickly, and Intel is notorious for feverish comebacks when it’s in second position. The company’s Core microarchitecture shifted favor back toward Intel in 2006, and that is where it has remained for the past four years.

Sure, AMD still sells attractive CPUs. Its Athlon II lineup consistently headlines our monthly Best Gaming CPUs For The Money column, thanks to respectable performance and entry-level pricing. The dual-core Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition is unbeatable under $100. And AMD’s Thuban-based offerings actually make hexa-core computing viable under $200.

BulldozerBulldozer

Clock-for-clock, though, nobody will deny that AMD’s portfolio trails Intel’s. And Intel, as always, has a sizable manufacturing technology advantage with its newest chips centering on a 32 nm process. Meanwhile, AMD is forced to engineer its six-core CPUs into a 130 W TDP using 45 nm lithography.

Heavy Machinery Is On The Way

AMD hopes that its K10 design won’t have to stave off Intel’s Westmere microarchitecture for long, though. Last year, at one of its Financial Analyst Days, AMD gave a first look at the “modules” that will come to define how its next-generation processors will be put together. Though detail was sparse, company representatives made it clear that this is the most significant redesign seen since K8.

BobcatBobcat

We already know that there will be two x86 cores based on this new architecture, each facilitating competitive functionality in a handful of different markets. Bulldozer is intended for deployment in everything from mainstream clients (including desktops and notebooks) to servers. Bobcat is supposed to be the more flexible design, enabling the low power and small dies needed in netbooks and cloud-optimized clients.  

Bear in mind that, as with any generational leap, there are a number of new internally-referenced names to keep straight. AMD is really only discussing Bulldozer and Bobcat at Hot Chips 22 (the IEEE-sponsored symposium on performance processors). However, it’s probably worth going into a little more depth on where you’ll see these CPU designs crop up, if only to prevent code-name confusion. If you're a little lost on the nomenclature, use the last page of this piece as a reference to AMD's plans for 2011.

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Top Comments
  • 36 Hide
    luke904 , August 24, 2010 7:53 AM
    ok everyone... I swear to god if AMD pulls this one off and bitch slaps Intel again... PARTY AT MY HOUSE!!!
  • 15 Hide
    randomizer , August 24, 2010 10:56 AM
    blink180heightsstill won't be a core i7 920

    Really? Here I was thinking that's exactly what AMD was building.
  • 13 Hide
    buzznut , August 24, 2010 7:34 AM
    Thanks for the great article and valuable information. Someone scolded me for saying I wanted to wait for a bulldozer processor to upgrade. Thanks for clearing this up. Yes, Bulldozer is what I'm waiting for, prolly a Zamboni would be nice.
    By the way, just who the hell comes up with these ridiculous names? I personally think manufacturers would sell more units if they weren't so confusing.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    notty22 , August 24, 2010 6:59 AM
    This will help spur a tick or a tock from Intel :) 
  • 12 Hide
    tacoslave , August 24, 2010 7:23 AM
    dogman_1234No new news here, but I cannot wait until AMD releases "Bulldozer"! The thing that got me was the use of the cores. Really, all AMD needs now is a Commercial. Anybody?


    Put it in a mac, the sheeple will eat this Sh1t up.
  • 13 Hide
    buzznut , August 24, 2010 7:34 AM
    Thanks for the great article and valuable information. Someone scolded me for saying I wanted to wait for a bulldozer processor to upgrade. Thanks for clearing this up. Yes, Bulldozer is what I'm waiting for, prolly a Zamboni would be nice.
    By the way, just who the hell comes up with these ridiculous names? I personally think manufacturers would sell more units if they weren't so confusing.
  • 11 Hide
    Judguh , August 24, 2010 7:49 AM
    dogman_1234No new news here, but I cannot wait until AMD releases "Bulldozer"! The thing that got me was the use of the cores. Really, all AMD needs now is a Commercial. Anybody?

    I'd have to say I partially agree with you. I see way more Intel commercials (many) than AMD (none). My next build: Bulldozer :D 
  • 2 Hide
    SpadeM , August 24, 2010 7:50 AM
    Quote:
    Details being discussed today include a dual-issue x86 decoder and out-of-order execution, perhaps enabling a performance advantage compared to Intel’s Atom CPUs.


    Not quite, the out of order execution WILL enable a performance advantage compared to Atom, + the added bonus that the AMD GPU on the Ontario platform (if similar or better in performance to the ION) WILL again make for a better platform as a hole.

    On the Bulldozer side, Power Gating and Turbo for modules, TST > SMT should be something to look forward.

    PS: On the commercials side I'm looking forward to something like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK0hU0OYvCI
  • 36 Hide
    luke904 , August 24, 2010 7:53 AM
    ok everyone... I swear to god if AMD pulls this one off and bitch slaps Intel again... PARTY AT MY HOUSE!!!
  • 3 Hide
    joytech22 , August 24, 2010 7:57 AM
    Excellent!! i skipped the Istanbul CPU's because i'm waiting to score on a "Scorpius" platform! and i know 100% that i will be able to afford it on release!
  • 9 Hide
    thomaseron , August 24, 2010 9:10 AM
    Hopefully, Bulldozer will easily outperform my 955BE. So when the time comes, Bulldozer, Northern islands and about 8GB RAM on a new motherboard. :-) I hope Bulldozer kicks the living daylight out of intel for like one or two generations, so we can get som balance on the market.
  • 1 Hide
    thomaseron , August 24, 2010 9:13 AM
    SpadeMNot quite, the out of order execution WILL enable a performance advantage compared to Atom, + the added bonus that the AMD GPU on the Ontario platform (if similar or better in performance to the ION) WILL again make for a better platform as a hole. On the Bulldozer side, Power Gating and Turbo for modules, TST > SMT should be something to look forward.PS: On the commercials side I'm looking forward to something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK0hU0OYvCI


    I totaly agree on the commersial bit. :) 
  • 3 Hide
    XxOsurfer3xX , August 24, 2010 9:43 AM
    Cannot wait for Zambezi i was thinking of buying a 1095T, now im going to wait and see... C'mon AMD surprise everybody with your new architecture!
  • 2 Hide
    L0tus , August 24, 2010 9:43 AM
    luke904ok everyone... I swear to god if AMD pulls this one off and bitch slaps Intel again... PARTY AT MY HOUSE!!!


    Yeh but Intel also has its new 2011 line-up in the works. I really want AMD to do well but Intel has one hell of a lead in terms of clock-vs-clock performance. But i'm still hopeful...so go AMD!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 24, 2010 10:50 AM
    AMD had a similar lead before 'core' !
  • 15 Hide
    randomizer , August 24, 2010 10:56 AM
    blink180heightsstill won't be a core i7 920

    Really? Here I was thinking that's exactly what AMD was building.
  • 3 Hide
    decode , August 24, 2010 11:20 AM
    Thanks for that, I think that clarify's a few things, not fully. But enough for me to make limited sense of it ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , August 24, 2010 11:28 AM
    To quote another user "the future is AMDeal".

    Intel will need to buy a decent Graphics design team to keep up.

    Goodby NVidia ... your about to be assimilated into the collective.

    Chris, I might have predicted this a few times before ...and got it wrong too.

    Great article btw.
  • 0 Hide
    ta152h , August 24, 2010 11:41 AM
    The main question is, when AMD is saying their 16 "core" processor is 50% faster than their 12 "core" processor, are they saying 16 "real" cores, or eight of these units with two execution engines.

    It's good to see they got away from having ports with both AGUs and ALUs. Hopefully they copied more from Intel than that.

  • 0 Hide
    nforce4max , August 24, 2010 12:00 PM
    I can't wait but hate having to upgrade my board and ram. :( 

    AM2+ user :/ 
  • 0 Hide
    ares1214 , August 24, 2010 12:02 PM
    From this, which i saw a long time ago, so not much new, got me all excited for nothing :(  But from this, i dont expect Bulldozer to compete with Sandy Bridge, or the i7. I expect it to be competing with the 980x. Intels charts have that as top dog up until Q3 2011. Therefore, we can guess SB will be more on a middle range. Bulldozer on the other hand, more specifically Scorpius, will be AMD's highest performing chips. Id expect them to take on the 980x, not really intels lower end. Some other chips will be made to do that. And to be honest, I think AMD has a winner :) 
  • 0 Hide
    jj463rd , August 24, 2010 12:14 PM
    blink180heightsstill won't be a core i7 920

    From the looks of it Zambezi sounds like it would outperform the i7 920 if it just used 4 cores except that it will have 8 cores (4 modules).It looks like it might even match or maybe outperform the 6 core i7-980X Gulftown monster.That is if AMD can really execute this properly.
    Will Intel have faster CPU's by then? Probably.
    The real question is will software catch up with this new hardware?
    PC Gaming will be great really great with high FPS with new GPU's
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