AMD Hits a Triple for Desktops

By Scott Ferguson  |  Posted 2007-09-18

AMD Hits a Triple for Desktops


AMD Hits a Triple

for Desktops"> In the hours leading up to the 2007 Intel Developer Forum, Advanced Micro Devices is offering some additional details of its upcoming desktop road map, including a glimpse at a tri-core processor for high-end PCs.

AMD, which offered a glance at its new line of Phenom desktop processors in May, announced Sept. 17 that it will add a three-core processor to that lineup and that its first quad-core desktop processors will ship in December.

The first of AMDs tri-core processors is expected to launch in the first half of 2008.

This tri-core processor, which will likely be marketed under the name Phenom X3, is geared toward gamers, PC enthusiasts and the high end of the desktop space. The three-core processor is meant to appeal to those looking for a desktop processor that offers more performance than a dual-core chip but at a price that is below the upcoming quad-core model, according to Simon Solotko, a desktop brand marketing manager in the Sunnyvale Calif., companys Desktop Division.

"These triple-core processors are meant to satisfy the sophisticated needs of multitaskers who are also budget conscious," Solotko said. "Its the way to get the most performance out of a processor for a user who also has budgetary constraints. It will be priced below the quad-core Phenom processor, but it will offer greater performance than the performance offered by the current Athlon and Sempron products."

Read here eWEEKs interview with AMD CEO Hector Ruiz.

Part of the problem of selling a triple-core processor is overcoming the fact that both Intel and AMD chips have usually been developed in multiples of two. After years of single-core models, both companies began introducing dual-core and then quad-core models, with octo-core processors expected by the end of the decade.

AMD is able to produce a processor with three cores, Solotko said, because of the design it settled on for its new quad-core model, which allows the company to "natively" place four processing cores on a single piece of silicon. Since the companys manufacturing facilities are now designed for this type of chip, Solotko said, AMD can move from two, to three, to four cores without having to radically alter the basic design.

By contrast, Intels quad-core design ties two dual-core packages together on the same die. The Santa Clara, Calif., company does plan to move toward incorporating four cores onto one piece of silicon within the next few years.

Solotko said the companys Direct Connect Architecture also helped engineers move from a dual-core design to tri- and quad-core designs. Direct Connect Architecture is the marketing name for a chip design that allows improved memory and bandwidth by directly connecting the memory and I/O to the CPU. This design also allows for the CPUs to be connected to one another.

For its part, Intel uses a traditional FSB (front-side bus) design to connect the CPUs, memory and I/O.

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Running Three Apps at


Solotko said AMD has been working with a number of software companies and ISVs to ensure that applications can work with and take advantage of the three-core design.

"With this processor, users will be able to run three applications at the same time or take better advantage of multithreaded applications and any number of gaming applications," Solotko said. "We have gone out and talked to a number of software providers, and there is no obstacle in the way of having a processor with three cores."

Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC, said that a triple-core processor, while unique in the industry, will only sell if OEMs create systems to take advantage of its design and if AMD properly prices the processor to meet market expectations.

"From a product offering, a company can offer three cores, but the question is, Where will the vendors put it, what will the price from the whole system be, and what markets will the vendors target?" Shim said. "Differentiation never hurts in the PC industry, but it comes down to economics and what the ultimate offering will be when the product is offered in a system."

AMD gained back some market share in the second quarter. Find out how.

The tri-core Phenom X3, along with its dual-core and quad-core cousins, is part of AMDs next-generation family of Star processors. The design of the desktop processors is similar to the companys quad-core Opteron processor for servers and workstations, which debuted Sept. 10.

Like the quad-core Opteron, each of the processing cores with the Phenom desktop models with have a dedicated Level 2 cache of 512KB and a shared L3 cache of 2MB. The new desktop chips will also offer an integrated DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory controller and use the third version of AMDs HyperTransport technology—a high-speed, chip-to-chip interconnect—that will offer at least 16G bps of bandwidth I/O.

The processors are also designed to work with Socket AM2 and Socket AM2+, which will allow users to easily plug the new processors into an existing socket.

So far, AMD is not offering any specifics on the clock speed of either the quad-core or tri-core Phenom processors. At a meeting with industry analysts earlier this year, the company did display a gaming desktop using a Phenom processor running at 3GHz.

Since the release of the quad-core Opteron processor, AMD has had to explain why those models do not meet the clock speed expectations of some industry watchers and customers.

AMD has not released a pricing range yet for the Phenom line nor has the company revealed which vendors will offer PCs with these desktops processors.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

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