AMD demonstrates first native quad-core CPU

Berkeley (CA) - Intel was first out of the gate with a quad-core processor, AMD will offer the first native quad-core chip - four processors that are integrated in one piece of silicon. The company today offered a first glimpse at a 4-way, quad-core Opteron processor system during its annual analyst conference.

There is little question that 2006 brought dramatic change for the microprocessor environment. While AMD was able to, seemingly unchallenged, to take over market shares from Intel in desktop and server/workstation segments with superior processors until a few months ago, Intel has regained its crown with its Core 2 Duo / Xeon 5100 processors. AMD may have underestimated the strength of Intel's technology as it can't really answer its rival's CPUs at this time.

A slight improvement to the current situation came with today's announcement of the high-end Quad FX platform, and is expected with new 65 nm processors in December. A changing situation, at least on the very high-end, could surface when AMD will unveil the first native quad-core in mid-2007. Analysts were able to get a sneak peek at the processor today, when AMD showed off a system running four 65 nm quad-cores - for a total of 16 processor cores. For comparison purposes, this is twice the number of cores that Intel can offer today (an in mid-2007) in comparable Xeon 5300 (Clovertown core) systems.

AMD chief sales & marketing officer Henri Richard compares AMD's "Barcelona" Opteron quad-core (left) to Intel's dual-die Clovertown (Xeon 5300) quad-core CPU.

In many cases it may not matter that AMD can flaunt a "native" quad-core over Intel's Clovertown, which essentially integrates two Xeon 5100 (Woodcrest) dual-cores. For the enthusiast and high-end segment, there won't be much difference - if any - in performance. However, AMD claims that the integration of four cores into one piece of silicon will enable the company to maintain its current Opteron power envelope: Opteron product manager Steve Demski confirmed in a conversation with TG Daily that there will be Opteron quad-cores that will consume 68 watts, 95 watts and 125 watts. Not only are 68 watt quad-cores impressive (especially when compared to the 250 watt Quad FX), the fact that the power requirement remain unchanged will also mean that customers will be able to switch from dual- to quad-core without having to reconsider cooling technologies.

Details such as transistor count or clock speeds of the Barcelona CPU were not announced.

However, Demsky said that AMD wills tick to its easy upgrade promise: Opteron quad-cores (2000 and 8000 series) will continue to use socket 1207 and will be even available as socket AM2 versions later in 2007.

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