AMD Offers Low-Watt Opterons

The chip maker is looking to expand its lineup of quad-core processors.

Advanced Micro Devices is rounding out its quad-core Opteron portfolio with new low-watt processors for its 8300 and 2300 series.

The five new Opterons, which the company plans to announce May 12, all work within a 55-watt thermal envelope. When AMD first detailed its quad-core Opteron portfolio in September 2007, it promised processors that worked within thermal envelopes of between 55 and 105 watts.

But May 12 marks the first time AMD will make these lower-watt models generally available to customers.

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AMD is measuring the new models' per-watt performance under a new metric called Average CPU Power, or ACP. The company described the new metric in September during the initial launch as a new way to measure performance compared with the TDP (Thermal Design Power) metric that Intel uses with its chips.

Since announcing the quad-core Opteron family, AMD has struggled to get the chips into the hands of its customers due to delays and design flaws that have since been fixed. Since the beginning of the year, the company has tried to bring as many different models into the market as possible to show that it has rebounded from the mistakes it made in 2007.

Since January, Hewlett-Packard and Dell have announced specific systems that will use the AMD quad-core chips, and Sun Microsystems, IBM and Fujitsu Siemens Computers are expected to offer the chips in their own servers within the next two months.

The 55-watt Opteron processors include two chips from the 8300 series-the 8347HE (1.9GHz) and the 8346HE (1.8GHz). There are also three chips within the 2300 series-the 2347HE (1.9GHz), the 2346HE (1.8GHz) and the 2344HE (1.7GHz). The prices, which are calculated in 1,000-unit shipments, range from $873 for the Opteron 8347HE to $209 for the 2344HE.

All of the quad-core Opterons offer 512KB of Level 2 cache with each core and all four cores share 2MB of L3 cache. The models that the company is offering May 12 are for two-, four- and eight-way systems.

Intel also offers low-watt processors for multiprocessor systems, such as its quad-core Xeon L7345, which has a clock speed of 1.86GHz and works within a 50-watt thermal envelope.

AMD is building out its chip line as it prepares to shrink the size of its processors from 65 nanometers to 45 nm later in 2008. This should allow it to increase the performance of its chips while keeping the thermal envelopes about the same. On May 7, the chip maker also detailed plans to offer six- and 12-core processors starting in 2009 and 2010.