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AMD's quad-core entry trumps rival

Posted: 05 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:processor? quad-core? AMD? Intel? Nvidia?

AMD's quad-core processor packs four Opteron cores on a single die

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) upcoming Barcelona processor will sport floating-point performance 42 percent higher than Intel's current top-of-the line CPU, the Xeon X5355, also known as Clovertown.

The news marked the first performance numbers AMD has provided for the chip that packs four Opteron cores on a single die and will be in production this fall. AMD also demonstrated working versions of its next-generation graphics chip the R600 to be released by the end of June.

AMD has been under pressure from archrivals Intel and Nvidia. Intel is shipping multiple quad-core processors using a system-in-package approach, claiming it has retaken the performance lead in x86 CPUs. Nvidia shipped a new generation graphics controller last fall, a move the graphics division of AMD has not yet answered.

Double-digit leap
Mario Rivas, general manager of AMD's microprocessor group, said Barcelona will provide a double-digit leap in integer performance over the quad-core Xeon, though he declined to be more specific. Henri Richard, chief of sales and marketing at AMD, said Barcelona will have a significant integer performance lead over Intel's quad-core chips.

Although the floating point advantage is significant, few applications outside high-performance computing and video encoding make use of it. Nevertheless, analysts were positive on the news.

"I thought Richard's comments were a strong vote of confidence in the product," said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64.

"Virtualized Web servers don't use floating-point processing, but if AMD is seeing integer performance gains over Intel in double digits, that's a positive for them," said Dean McCarron, principal of Mercury Research, referring to the most mainstream application for Barcelona.

Tbps benchmark
Separately, AMD gave one of the first public demos of the R600, its next-generation graphics controller that uses 320 multiply-accumulate units. The company showed a Barcelona-based system using two 200W R600 graphics cards to hit a terabit/second benchmark.

Release of the R600 has been delayed "a few weeks" so that AMD can roll out a full suite of graphics chips covering multiple market segments for the latest Microsoft DirectX 10 applications programming interface. Rival Nvidia rolled out its high-end DX10 graphics controller, the GeForce 8800, last fall but has not filled out its product line with midrange and low-end parts based on it yet.

"As soon as AMD makes their DX10 announcements, I am sure we will hear about competing products from Nvidia," said McCarron.

In addition, AMD announced a new desktop chipset, the first from the ATI division since the merger last fall. The AMD 690 sports an ATI Radeon X1250 graphics core and a new video decode block. It is also the former ATI's first chipset to support the HDMI video interface with HDCP copy protection for high definition video.

Ten motherboard makers said they will ship as many as 30 products with the chip.

"They put a lot of emphasis on home entertainment with this chipset," said McCarron. "It's a stronger graphics core than they have used in the past," he added.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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