Advanced Micro Devices is getting new chips based on its new "Bulldozer" multicore architecture into the market with its lineup of FX processors, including two eight-core desktop chips.
The FX chips-four in all, ranging from four to eight cores-are aimed at high-end systems for extreme multi-display gaming, high-definition content creation, and multimedia for PC and digital enthusiasts. In addition, AMD is shipping the chips unlocked, which means that users can overclock them to increase power if desired.
"AMD FX CPUs are back with a vengeance,'" Chris Cloran, corporate vice president and general manager for AMD's Client Group, said in a statement when the chips were released Oct. 12. "While overclockers will certainly enjoy the frequencies the AMD FX processors can achieve, PC enthusiasts and HD media aficionados will appreciate the remarkable experience that AMD FX processors can provide as part of a balanced, affordable desktop system."
In September, in a suite in a San Francisco hotel not far from where larger rival Intel was holding its Intel Developer Forum, AMD officials showed off these and other chips, including a game running across multiple screens.
The FX chips come at an important time for AMD. The chip maker has been talking up the Bulldozer architecture, which officials have said will offer high performance and greater energy efficiency. The architecture also is being used to build AMD's upcoming Opteron server chips-the 16-core "Interlagos" and eight-core "Valencia" processors-as well as the next generation of the company's Fusion chips, which were first introduced in January and offer high-level graphics and the CPU integrated on the same piece of silicon.
However, AMD has again been tripped up by manufacturing issues. Company executives in September lowered their revenue forecasts for the third quarter, saying problems at manufacturing partner Globalfoundries' facility in Germany were limiting supplies of AMD's 32-nanometer "Llano" processors for mainstream notebooks, and also delayed the shipment of the Opteron 6200 Interlagos processors.
The stumble made a difficult situation for AMD even more so. The vendor not only is challenged by Intel and its massive and efficient manufacturing abilities, but the company also is being squeezed by ARM Holdings in the low end.
"Even as AMD faces challenges at 32nm, its primary competitor is poised to start shipping 22nm-based MPUs, which will further pressure AMD's costs and product competitiveness," Ross Seymore, managing director of U.S. semiconductor research for Deutsche Bank Securities, said in a research note Sept. 28.
In a note Oct. 13, MKM Partners analysts Daniel Berenbaum wrote that "AMD is on the verge of sinking into irrelevancy as ARM-based competitors gain share in low-end computing and Intel extends its advantages in performance and manufacturing."
AMD is being hampered by not only its manufacturing problems with Globalfoundries, but also a "technology roadmap is severely lagging," Berenbaum wrote. "Third-party reviews indicate that the performance of new products based on the Bulldozer architecture is disappointing - this means that AMD will likely remain a bystander in the ongoing data center build cycle (which has accrued significant benefit to Intel), and will now also miss a window to compete in consumer PCs."
AMD officials believe users will be thrilled by the performance of the new FX CPUs. Not only will they be able to overclock the chips, but also will be able to take advantage of AMD's Turbo Core Technology to dynamically optimize performance across the chip cores to enhance performance for compute-intensive workloads.
The FX portfolio is starting with four chips-two eight-core models (FX-8150 and FX-8120), a six-core version (FX-6100) and one with four cores (FX-4100)-and more will be added to the family later.
Users also can combine an FX chips with a 9-series chipset motherboard and Radeon HD 6000 graphics cards-all from AMD-to create the "Scorpius" platform for high-end gaming and entertainment. In addition, the Scorpius platform supports AMD's CrossFireX technology, which enables users to combine multiple graphics cards in a PC, and Eyefinity technology, which offers high-level resolution on up to six monitors.