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AMD’s Bulldozer And Bobcat Architectures Pave The Way

Ready For Bulldozer And Bobcat?

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.

Bulldozer

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.

Bobcat

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.

  • notty22
    This will help spur a tick or a tock from Intel :)
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    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.
    Reply
  • buzznut
    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.
    Reply
  • Judguh
    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
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    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
    Reply
  • luke904
    ok everyone... I swear to god if AMD pulls this one off and bitch slaps Intel again... PARTY AT MY HOUSE!!!
    Reply
  • joytech22
    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!
    Reply
  • blink180heights
    still won't be a core i7 920
    Reply
  • thomaseron
    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.
    Reply
  • thomaseron
    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. :)
    Reply