We're fans of upgradable platforms. We're fans of procuring lots of performance without spending a ton of money. And we recognize that a majority of high-dollar processors are entirely overkill for a majority of PC users (even power users). To that end, AMD has done an admirable job of addressing a majority of end-users with price points under $200. Specifically, this Athlon II revamp bodes well for anyone looking for a much-needed Socket AM2+/AM3 upgrade.
Don't get me wrong, I'm also an enthusiast. That means I'm a fan of high-performance enthusiast-class hardware that costs a premium, but also sets new performance records. When it comes to video editing, gaming rigs with three or four graphics cards, and transcoding, Intel's high-end offerings absolutely rule the roost. The company has an undeniable technology advantage over AMD in the high-end LGA 1366 space, and even the fastest LGA 1156-based CPUs are compelling.
More than likely, AMD's answers to Intel over the next six months will include new Athlon IIs and Thuban-based Phenom II introductions (Update: AMD let us know that quad-core Zosma-based Phenom II X4 960T engineering samples have been manufactured, but the company does not expect that this processor will be released for general availability. It remains to be seen if the 960T makes its way to OEMs by special request). AMD's roadmaps suggest that next year will see an eight-core CPU based on the new Bulldozer architecture, but the potential game changer is Fusion. This is AMD's upcoming combination of CPU and graphics processor (codenamed llano), supposedly sampling now, to be released in 2011. Information from AMD suggests that llano's integrated graphics core may perform on par with the discrete Radeon HD 5570. This is very, very powerful for an integrated part and may truly bring 1680x1050 gaming to the masses.
For now, the vast majority of users out there--users surfing the Web, editing documents, presenting PowerPoint presentations, and gaming on low-budget PCs--really see no measurable benefit from a CPU faster than an Athlon II X3 or X4. AMD's sub-$100 CPUs are able to cover the needs of most folks, we think, and will continue to do so until there is a big shift in the PC desktop landscape.
Of course, this is one man's opinion, and it's easy to argue with subjective conjecture. Keep an eye out for a AMD versus Intel budget processor comparison coming in the near future. This is something we would have liked to have had for today's announcement, but a couple of recent developments have us cranking on some exciting new technologies. Stay tuned; it's an exciting month in the Tom's Hardware labs.