AMD: Still Playing Catch-Up
AMD is not having an easy year. This is partly due to the troubled Phenom introduction and its TLB issues, but also to the strength of the company’s principal competitor Intel, which holds an advantage in process technology and continues to do well with its Core micro-architecture. With the new Phenom XX50 series, the TLB error has been resolved, but some of the other issues remain.
The processor architecture seems to be having a hard time achieving higher clock speeds, which are absolutely necessary in order to keep up with Intel. The fastest processor model from AMD is the Phenom X4 9950 at 2.60 GHz. Although it’s a strong offering, AMD has had to slash the prices on even its fastest desktop chips in order to compete. Those CPUs are now so inexpensive that the top models are on a par with Intel’s mid-class products.
Since AMD is still manufacturing at 65 nanometers, ramping up clock speed is having a significant effect on the power consumption of its CPUs. The 2.50 GHz clocked quad-core Phenom X4 9850 operates with a maximum power requirement of 125 watts. The Phenom X4 9950 clocked just 100 MHz faster requires as much as 140 watts. Not every motherboard can be used with this chip, since the load on the voltage regulator is pretty high.
AMD is the first manufacturer to offer something between dual-core and a quad-core processors, and its Phenom X3 includes a sometimes-awkward three cores. The Phenom X3 8750 at 2.40 GHz is the fastest model from this family.
In terms of energy efficiency, AMD has an ace up its sleeve: thePhenom X4 9350e is the most energy-efficient quad core processor, with the 2.00 GHz model getting by on just 65 watts.
Since AMD isn’t refreshing the top of its product lineup very often, the company is instead producing ’new’ processors for the Athlon X2 and e series. The most recently introduced Athlon X2 model is the 6500 Black Edition, which is the first dual-core Athlon to be based on the Phenom core. It sports a 2.30 GHz clock speed.