We talked to AMD's technical PR specialist Damon Muzny about product positioning, competitiveness and future products.
Patrick: The 6000+ is the fastest Athlon 64 X2 dual core processor ever, but what happened to the FX family?
Damon: Patrick, you are right. The X2 6000+ is the fastest AMD64 dual-core processor ever... so why isn't it called FX? To answer that I have to explain what FX is all about... pushing the boundaries of desktop PCs. FX-51 did that right out of the gate, with multiple advantages over other AMD processors, and a clear lead on the competition. Move forward a bit to where AMD put high-performance, native dual-core computing into a single socket with the FX-60. Fast forward again and you see FX pushing new boundaries as "4x4" delivers four high-performance cores with a direct-connect, SLI platform that is ready to be upgraded to 8 cores later this year.
So, with the FX brand now crowning a 4-core (and future 8-core) platform, it seemed logical that new dual-core solutions should reside under the X2 moniker.
Patrick: Our benchmarks show that the Athlon 64 X2 6000+ is no match for Intel's Core 2 Extreme and Core 2 Quad processors. How do you intend to close the performance gap?
Damon: AMD never stands still. For desktop computing, we continue to introduce new high-performance processors for Socket AM2, and of course there is the new Quad-FX platform. We expect to introduce true native quad-core processors later this year, with significant improvements in instructions per cycle (IPC). Dual-core derivatives of our quad-core silicon can be expected to share the IPC boost. As always, AMD is working on new processor and platform designs. With the new AMD (AMD & ATI), we have a greater ability than ever to innovate on a platform level in response to customer feedback.
Patrick: At 3.0 GHz and a thermal design point of 125 W, AMD is very close to what Intel had offered with its 90 nm Pentium D processors. Can you explain to our readers how this matches up with AMD's philosophy of energy efficient platforms?
Damon: I'd preface this answer with a reminder that AMD specs our maximum wattage, and not a "typical" wattage. In other words, the desktop processors that we rate at particular maximum wattage consistently run below that spec, as you have seen in your own testing at Tom's Hardware. AMD has an excellent desktop product line with a variety of supporting platforms, including solid integrated graphics solutions. So, top-to-bottom, there's no pitfalls in the bunch to steer clear of.
Whatever your price bracket and performance needs, we have good choices. The Sempron and Athlon 64 lineup have been stellar. We have single core chips all the way down to 45 W for desktop. We have dual-core chips in many wattage ranges, and even a special version at 35 W. As we moved desktop chips over to our 65 nm process, we reduced our standard max wattage spec from 89 W all the way down to 65 W. It should be clear that AMD has lead the way when it comes to offering a variety of energy efficient processors for the desktop.
With that said, there is a segment of enthusiasts who want to go faster still with much less concern about power consumption. The X2 6000+ is a 125 W max part, but is readily cooled by a range of heat sink solutions.
Progress never stops. Remember that previously, the FX-62 was the fastest AM2 processor at 2.8 GHz and 125 W. However, with the introduction of the X2 5600+, AMD took that same 2.8 GHz processor and reduced the power consumption to 89 W. You can see in all of this the consistent progress we've made with respect to efficiency in pretty much every category of desktop processor. To underscore that point, I'd just add a mention that AMD has won various Energy Star awards for our PC processors.
Patrick: Intel has placed 45 nm dual and quad-core processors on its roadmaps for Q1 of 2008, still based on the Core 2 micro architecture, but with supposedly increased efficiency. Can you make a forecast on the AMD processor portfolio for this timeframe?
Damon: Customers don't buy a process technology, they buy PCs. Even enthusiasts who build their own systems won't see a difference between two equal-spec processors on different process technologies when put into the same configuration. Discussions of process technology advancements are helpful to show one part of CPU progress, but being first to hit the next shrink does not always translate into an advantage.
Architecture, speed and platform design are a few other variables that play a big part in overall competitiveness. Case in point: everyone remembers AMD cranking out 90 nm processors that bested the 65 nm Pentium D in both power consumption and performance. AMD is always improving our product line as well as our process technology. We employ continual improvement both from one process to the next as well as within a particular process. That continual improvement approach sets us apart from others in the industry.
AMD is committed to delivering IPC improvement and true, native quad-core technology in 2007. The first quad-core chips (65 nm) for the desktop will plug right into the existing Quad-FX platform with direct-connect architecture. AMD's first 45 nm technology should come online mid-2008, so we're right in the middle of things with process technology. The other questions that should be answered are when will AMD's competitor implement a true, native quad-core design, include an integrated memory controller, or get rid of the front-side bus bottleneck in favor of a HyperTransport-style solution. Oh, and don't forget, AMD is hard at work with future chip designs meant to better address key markets, like "Fusion."