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Meet Bobcat and Bulldozer

Posted: 30 Aug 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:x86? core? Bobcat? Bulldozer?

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) presented Bulldozer and Bobcatthe company's first new x86 cores designed from a clean sheet of paper in 10 yearsat the Hot Chips conference in the US last Tuesday. The cores are key to AMD's competitive strategy against archrival Intel.

The two papers at the annual Hot Chips conference focus on architectural details and provide almost no hard information about the performance of planned processors using the cores. It will take product announcements from both companies over the next year to gauge just how effective Bulldozer and Bobcat will be in the next round of battles for the mainstream computing market.

"Both cores are highly innovative, but the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and no one has had a chance to taste these guys," said Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64.

AMD has had silicon implementations of the cores working in its lab for at least a month. It has also sampled to at least one PC maker its Ontario processor, the first processor to use Bobcat cores, aimed at aimed at thin and light notebooks and netbooks.

Ontario, made in a 40nm TSMC process, will use two Bobcat cores, a Microsoft DirectX 11 graphics core and DDR3 memory. It is expected to ship in systems in the first half of next year.

First parts using Bulldozer which targets everything from mainstream notebooks to high-end servers will come toward the end of 2011. The longer time to market is due in part to the fact the chip is the second in line to be made in GlobalFoundries' 32nm process.

The fab's first major 32nm processor is AMD's Llano, the first member of AMD's Fusion family which merges x86 and graphics cores. Llano will use neither Bobcat nor Bulldozer but an enhanced version of an existing 45nm x86 core moved to a 32nm process.

According to a November briefing, Llano will sport four x86 cores and will come in versions using at least two different DX11 graphics cores all linked to DDR3 DRAM. Llano is expected to ship in the second half of next year.

Also on tap for next year is Zambezi, a high-end desktop chip using four to eight of the Bulldozer cores, but no integrated graphics. Bulldozer will also show up in two server processors in 2011.

AMD is expected to make public more details about its processor road map at an analyst conference in November. Meanwhile, there are many interesting clues to what the future may hold buried in the details of the new cores.

Get to know Bulldozer
Bulldozer packs two integer execution pipelines and one shared floating point unit in a core than can retire four instructions in a clock cycle. AMD claims it will be able to hit higher frequencies than its current cores now shipping at up to 2.3GHz.

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