Searching for AMD's Triple-Core Phenom

By Scott Ferguson  |  Posted 2008-03-13 Print this article Print

title=Manufacturing Tricks}

When it first introduced the tri-core Phenom last year, AMD planned to market the processor as a compromise between the full-blown performance of its quad-core chip and an upgrade from its older line of dual-core Athlon processors.

This meant the tri-core could appeal to both PC enthusiasts who want more processing power for their desktops but not at the price of a quad-core, and for enterprise users who need a more robust desktop for tasks involving content creation applications.

Manufacturing Tricks

In the build up to the tri-core Phenom, AMD has not offered a full explanation about how it created such a chip. Whitman explained in an e-mail that this Phenom takes advantage of AMD's Direct Connect Architecture, which directly connects the cores together and allows for better communication between the integrated memory controller and the I/O.

"AMD's Direct Connect Architecture and true native multicore design allow for direct communication between cores, integrated memory controller, and I/O?ö?ç?Âreducing unnecessary bottlenecks," Whitman wrote. "And thus, this approach enables us to deliver varying core configurations?ö?ç?Âincluding dual, triple and quad."

Some industry analysts believe that AMD is merely shutting off one core with its quad-core Phenom desktop and repackaging it as a new chip. If that's the case, it should help the company get better yields from its manufacturing process where flawed chips with defects?ö?ç?Âin this case at least one inoperable processing core within a quad-core chip?ö?ç?Âare common.

Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research, believes that the triple-core Phenom is more than just interesting marketing from AMD and that the company could create a tactical position for itself through aggressive pricing of the processor.

"This buys them a lot of flexibility," said McCarron. "AMD as a company has a history of coming up with these sort of tactical devices and they use them as an advantage against Intel."

McCarron said he would not be surprised if Intel countered AMD with offering a high-performing dual-core processor or aggressively dropping the price of one of its desktop quad-core processors at some point.


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