AMD launches Opteron 185, 285 and 885 processors

Sunnyvale (CA) - AMD kicks off a week that will be largely dominated by news coming out of Intel's developer forum in San Francisco. The company today announced three new versions of its Opteron workstation and server processor - which run at 2.6 GHz and remain in the 95 watt power envelope.

It isn't coincidence that AMD introduces the fifth clock speed level of its dual-core Opteron processors just one day before Intel will provide a first look on products that determine the company's near and mid-term future. It's a reminder that AMD is breathing down Intel's neck with its Opteron processor, which is responsible for a substantial portion of the market share loss Intel has experienced in recent months.

The new series - 185 (for one-way systems), 285 (up to two-way) and 885 (up to eight-way) - are not revolutionary, but demonstrate that AMD is still able to scale its Opteron platform. The clock speed increases from 2.4 GHz in the previous flagship series x80 to 2.6 GHz in the x85 series. The company claims that 285-based 2-processor servers will see a 15% performance increase over a 280 system when running under Windows; 885-based 4-processor servers will see a 4% gain over 880-systems in a Linux environment.

However, it isn't so much the Opteron's performance that AMD is highlighting these days. Whenever there is a chance, AMD pushes its power consumption advantage over Intel - which has reached a dramatic level in the dual-core arena. While all three new Opterons remain in the 95 watt power envelope, Intel's dual-core Xeon DP with 2.8 GHz Paxville core is listed with a thermal design power (TDP) of 135 watts. According to spec sheets posted on Intel's website, the Xeon MP 7000 series has a TDP of 165 watts, which may be caused by the 4 MB L2 cache of the higher end models of the family. The Opteron comes with just 1 MB of cache per core, but 40% less power consumption may sound very convincing to many server buyers.

Steve Demski, product manager for the Opteron 1xx series, told TG Daily that the Opteron's power consumption advantage is not widely known among organizations that buy servers and workstations. "The success is currently driven by early adopters that know about it," he said.

Yet another sign for AMD's newly found confidence is a market strategy that keeps testing higher price points. In case of the 285 processor, a 15% performance increase over the 280 will cost the buyer a 24% premium: While the 280 stays at $851, the 285 rings in at $1051. The 4% performance increase of the 885 over the 880 will cost an extra 42% ($2149 and $1514, respectively). For comparison, Intel's 2.8 GHz Xeon DP is priced at $1043, while the Xeon MP 7000-series ranges from $1177 for the 2.66 GHz model to $3157 for the 3 GHz version with FSB800 and 4 MB L2 cache.