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Phenom 9700, AMD's 1st Quad-Core CPU

The Phenom In Detail - A Revamped Athlon 64

AMD has thoroughly reworked the core of the Phenom processor compared to the Athlon 64, succeeding in raising the number of instructions per clock cycle (IPC). According to AMD, we should expect to see a performance increase of up to 25% at the same clock speed.

Like several of the later Athlon 64 models, the Phenom is manufactured on a 65 nm production process. In its presentation, AMD stated that it will begin transitioning to a 45 nm process starting in 2008. Unlike Intel's quad-core solutions, which consist of two dual-core processors combined in one CPU package, AMD's Phenom uses a single die comprising four cores. The resulting die has an area of 285 mm² and consists of 600 million transistors. That means that the transistor count has more than doubled compared to the Athlon 64 X2, which consisted of 227 million transistors.

The BIOS POST message

The downside to the single-die quad-core approach is a greater risk of manufacturing defects and thus lower yields. If even one of the cores suffers a manufacturing defect, the entire quad-core CPU becomes defective. AMD has found a solution, if this should ever happen, though. If one of the cores is indeed defective, it is deactivated, and the processor is sold as a three-core model. In an interview in Warsaw, AMD now officially confirmed that the tri-core models are indeed quad-cores with one deactivated core. In the end, this is a boon to the consumer. Where Intel would sell a processor with one defective core in the notebook sector, since the desktop line does not include a single-core Core 2 processor, AMD's customers will be able to purchase an inexpensive tri-core CPU. However, for now it is unclear when the Phenom X3 processors will go on sale.

Stars Core Micro-Architecture

While AMD's quad-core processor was still in development, the new micro-architecture was referred to as K10. Now, with the official introduction, it is being rechristened the Stars core micro-architecture

The last time AMD introduced a completely new micro-architecture was in September of 2003 with the launch of the Athlon 64. During the long development time for the Phenom processor, a great number of alterations were made to the core design, resulting in a performance increase at the same clock speed.

A block diagram of one of the four Phenom cores.