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System makers to introduce tri-core AMD processors this week

Roadmaps from AMD indicate Dell and Hewlett-Packard will introduce low-end computers based on triple-core AMD Phenom processors this week.

Dell Optiplex computers, targeting the sub-$600 market, will be the first to receive the new triple-core treatment.  HP Pavilion desktops will follow shortly after in the sub-$600 and sub-$500 segments.  True to the botched announcement earlier this month, Dell will not introduce any of the new AMD processors in its Inspiron desktops. 

The new systems will begin to replace Optiplex and Pavilion computers that use AMD Athlon X2 dual-core processors. AMD was to discontinue the majority of its Athlon X2 lineup, but delays with its quad-core Phenom architecture continue to stretch the lifespan of its K8 architecture. 

The new triple-core processors, codenamed Toliman, will debut with frequencies as high as 2.3 GHz.  Toliman processors feature all of the same capabilities of the high-end Agena processors with the exception of one disabled processor core.   This includes 2MB of shared L3 cache and 512KB per core of unshared L2 cache.

In addition to the B2-stepping Toliman processors, AMD will introduce one more B2 Opteron this month: an energy efficient quad-core Barcelona processor. These two processors are the last B2 processors in AMD's arsenal -- the company will officially unveil its B3-stepping processors late next month. 

AMD would not comment when, or if, the tri-core processors would make a splash into the retail channel.

B3 processors are unaffected by the TLB bug announced by AMD late last year.  Although the bug is extremely difficult to replicate, the AMD-mandated B2 workaround can hamper Phenom and Opteron performance dramatically.

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Disaibled core?
By geddarkstorm on 2/18/2008 1:51:08 PM , Rating: 2
Huh, if the fourth core is simply disabled to yield a "tri-core" processor, I wonder if it would be possible to reactivate with bios hacks or whatnot.

RE: Disaibled core?
By KristopherKubicki on 2/18/2008 1:52:41 PM , Rating: 1
It's my understanding that its physically severed. The next-gen triple-core stuff will not be quad-core disabled; it will actually be manufactured as three cores.

RE: Disaibled core?
By ajfink on 2/18/2008 1:59:12 PM , Rating: 5
If, when the time arrives, they feel spending the resources on creating a native tri-core processor is worth it. To me, it seems perfectly logical to simply disable a problematic core and sell the remaining three. Wasting resources on a tri-core redesign? Meh.

RE: Disaibled core?
By inighthawki on 2/18/2008 2:28:08 PM , Rating: 5
Correct me if i'm wrong, maybe i'm not up to date on some stuff, but didn't amd mention their tri-core cpus consisting of (at least some of them) quad core cpus that had a malfunctioning core, thus making only three working ones? I could've sworn i read something on that, but feel free to correct me.

RE: Disaibled core?
By rum on 2/18/2008 2:37:07 PM , Rating: 2
I have to agree here, that AMD's Tri-Core Processors are Quad Cores with a bad core and that Core is disabled. How I have no clue, but does it matter if it is a bad core??

Seems like a good way for AMD to make money, selling bad Quad Cores as Tri-Cores, well at least it beats throwing them out, if the sell them cheap enough.

RE: Disaibled core?
By StevoLincolnite on 2/18/2008 3:54:19 PM , Rating: 2
And if the demand is great enough, they may simple just turn a fully working Quad into a Triple Core, Providing the demand is great enough... A good example was the Geforce 6200A where demand was actually rather large, thus nVidia Disabled some pipelines on the 6600 and called it a 6200 - Thus users were able to "mod" they're card into the much more expensive 6600.

Still, This is good news for AMD, they can maximize Profits, which ultimately is a good thing for them right now.
Also, If they actually market the crap out of this, People may think it is better than a Dual Core, Ultimately using Intels old tactics against them!

RE: Disaibled core?
By eye smite on 2/18/2008 6:11:15 PM , Rating: 2
I'll buy one. This is what I've been waiting for personally. I just don't really want a quad core, but a tri core would be very nice. Of the 7 systems I have running here, usually this one is gaming and processing world community grid med research units at the same time, the rest are on the grid 24/7. So moving to a tri core for gaming and crunching med research at the same time would please me more. As I've said in the past, it all comes down to preference, not who's is fastest or rated the best.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

RE: Disaibled core?
By cheetah2k on 2/18/2008 7:42:43 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe disabling 1 of these cores to yield a "tri core" cpu fixes the errata issue with the shared Cache.

If this is truely the case, then this is a feasible way to get rid of the current wafer stock with errata issues IMO.

RE: Disaibled core?
By matriarch wolf on 2/18/2008 11:30:27 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like a plan.

RE: Disaibled core?
By bfellow on 2/20/2008 11:32:40 AM , Rating: 2
That still doesn't explain why their "fastest" Tri-core is only 2.3Ghz

RE: Disaibled core?
By KristopherKubicki on 2/18/2008 2:54:56 PM , Rating: 2
It's always been thought that the tri-cores are quad-cores with one bad core disabled. However, AMD never confirmed this (and probably never will), though that is standard practice in processor binning.

Intel did the same thing for a while on its dual-core single-die processors -- binning some of them as single-core processors even though two cores are physically on the die.

RE: Disaibled core?
By retrospooty on 2/18/2008 6:29:58 PM , Rating: 2
" their tri-core cpus consisting of (at least some of them) quad core cpus that had a malfunctioning core,"

Correct. one core is either malfunctioning, or not able to function at the rated speed.

RE: Disaibled core?
By jtemplin on 2/18/2008 8:26:38 PM , Rating: 2
Yea I think they are binned. The quad cores that have a faulty core will be sold as tri-cores. This way some of the problems of lower yields can be re-diverted into a useful product.

RE: Disaibled core?
By christojojo on 2/18/2008 11:06:00 PM , Rating: 3
When you said "physically severed" it made me wonder how many naturalist and homeopathic people will be asking if the chip "cries".


If a chip is neutered in the woods will it regret not having children?

RE: Disaibled core?
By phattyboombatty on 2/18/2008 2:39:01 PM , Rating: 2
The reason the processor is tri-core, rather than quad core, is because one of the cores is defective. Rather than toss out the entire processor because of the one defective core, AMD wisely chose to simply deactivate that core and sell a tri-core processor. That's why AMD can sell these for cheap--because they were headed for the trash bin originally.

RE: Disaibled core?
By Omega215D on 2/18/2008 3:31:04 PM , Rating: 3
Yet some publications (MaximumPC) say that AMD not being able to turn out reliable Quad cores is bad news. I have no problem with Tri-Core parts because maybe it'll be more cost effective than a Dual Core. Besides nobody complained when the XBOX 360 is running a Triple core IBM processor... probably where AMD got the idea from.

RE: Disaibled core?
By eyebeeemmpawn on 2/18/2008 3:36:37 PM , Rating: 2
As stated in the comments below, whether AMD admits it or not, the tri-core is a quad with a defective core disabled.

RAM is typically designed to have extra memory space so they can re-map defective addresses to the functional repair addresses. This can be done for individual bits, or larger blocks.

I believe similar practices are used to remove defective on-die cache regions so a processor can be sold at a lower binned performance level. Now they're doing it with cores. It's almost like pulling money out of the dumpster.

RE: Disaibled core?
By StevoLincolnite on 2/18/2008 3:57:41 PM , Rating: 3
It works doesn't it? It allows AMD to gain more sales which ultimately allows them to release faster and better products in the future in order to be competitive against the competition.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if AMD released Defective Quads as Dual Cores or even single cores in the near future.

RE: Disaibled core?
By imperator3733 on 2/18/2008 4:48:54 PM , Rating: 2
Also, I wouldn't be surprised if AMD released Defective Quads as Dual Cores or even single cores in the near future.

The only reason they would do that is if two or three cores were defective. (Which hopefully wouldn't happen too often) If three cores are working and they sell it as a single or dual core, something is wrong.

By HaZaRd2K6 on 2/18/2008 1:58:58 PM , Rating: 2
... the AMD-mandated B2 workaround can hamper Phenom and Opteron performance dramatically.

Ain't that the truth? We've got an AMD system on display at work that should actually be damned good. Phenom 9500, 2x1GB 1066 Dominators, Crossfired 3870s and an ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe board. And yet, it struggles to run Crysis at 20FPS with everything on medium settings (some on low) at 1680x1050. A $1700 system would be much better served by an Intel/nVidia mashup.

By ajfink on 2/18/2008 2:09:33 PM , Rating: 2
If you think the hardware should be performing better, disable the patch. The chances of it resulting in a crash are immensely tiny.

Also, you may be having system configuration issues if you're running into an FPS problem. Installed Crysis 1.1 patch and latest Catalyst?

By HaZaRd2K6 on 2/18/2008 3:31:09 PM , Rating: 2
It's a demo system so we're only using demos. Latest Catalyst drivers are installed and it's running Vista so there is no patch. My system at home performs a whole lot better and it's got half as many video cards.

By SlyNine on 2/18/2008 3:37:19 PM , Rating: 2
I was going to say, A 1950GT can run Crysis at med settings at lower resolutions on XP with a single core CPU and get the performence you're talking about. a 3870 is leaps and bounds.

Also I found at least with SLI you need to dissable SLI completely, not just set the game to single card rendering or else you get wierd studdering, even if the FPS average is higher.

By Iketh on 2/18/2008 6:26:52 PM , Rating: 3
there's something wrong with the guy that configured that system, not the system itself

In other news...
By UNCjigga on 2/18/2008 1:50:43 PM , Rating: 2
Further price cuts on quad-core Intel CPUs inbound. Thanks AMD, you are good for something after all!

RE: In other news...
By Tedtalker1 on 2/18/2008 2:20:11 PM , Rating: 5
I am so sick of the AMD bashers.If it wasn't for AMD making competitive processors we'd be paying out the arse for Intel's bottom of the barrel and anyone with any sense knows it.
So uncle jigga shut yer pie hole!

RE: In other news...
By semo on 2/18/2008 2:31:33 PM , Rating: 1
I am so sick of the AMD bashers.If it wasn't for AMD making competitive processors we'd be paying out the arse for Intel's bottom of the barrel and anyone with any sense knows it.
the op's point entirely. although i do disagree that amd good for nothing otherwise.

RE: In other news...
By DigitalFreak on 2/18/2008 3:04:40 PM , Rating: 2
Further price cuts on quad-core Intel CPUs inbound. Thanks AMD, you are good for something after all!

I wouldn't count on it.

It works for Microsoft
By rupaniii on 2/18/2008 5:06:08 PM , Rating: 2
The Disable a core is regular in many things you buy.
Unless you bought the high end GPU, you have a GPU with some elements disabled because it didn't bin 100% good.
Everyone's cited the Cell. The funny thing about that is i read recently that they actually have very few bin under 8 cores, there's some Irony. The one that was supposed to have a 'defective' part built in hardly has a defective core and is the system with the lowest defect rates.
So, yeah, this will become common place.
We'll have 6 core processors when an Octocore has 1 bin bad,they'll disable 2 and sell it as a lower class processor.
More likely Intel than AMD, and I don't mean that as a quality thing, as frankly, INTEL is probably going to have less bin down but need to sell more volume and won't give up the margin for the volume.

Larrabee is going to be crazy. There WILL be 8, 12, and 16 core based versions of that, all because some will bin real bad, some will bin a little bad, or,again, Intel just needs to bin some for low end market share.

As long as noone makes anything as reprehensible as the XBOX360 again, i'll be happy.

Yield problems
By UWgrad on 2/18/2008 8:43:56 PM , Rating: 2
The yield issue is probably more related to power consumption rather than faulty core. AMD has had power problems with their 65nm process, just like Intel had with 90nm. This keeps the CPUs with lower clock rates for both X2's and Quad's. Likely they're piling up Quad's that bin too high on power and just lowering the clock would not cut it in the market. So, by disabling one core gives them ~25% margin. This also will fill in the price range of $100-150. Unfortunately, Intel will still beat them since most programs run faster with a higher clocked dual core.

By Samus on 2/19/2008 4:31:27 AM , Rating: 2
They should score a licensing deal with Nintendo and call it Tri-Force and sell it in a gold, triangular box. I'd buy one. Make it an Officially Licensed Nintendo Product as well.

2006 to 2008
By crystal clear on 2/19/2008 5:08:36 AM , Rating: 2
What happened ?

Interview: AMD's Richard Baker
18 Feb 08, 5:02pm

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By crystal clear on 2/19/2008 4:48:21 AM , Rating: 1

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By Phynaz on 2/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Cool.
By HaZaRd2K6 on 2/18/2008 1:53:50 PM , Rating: 3
Pretty much the same as the Playstation 3's 7-core processor! Wow!

Some PS3s have 8 cores, some have 7. Yields are never perfect so why scrap an entire die when you can just turn it into a triple-core CPU?

RE: Cool.
By System48 on 2/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Cool.
By Sungpooz on 2/18/2008 1:59:27 PM , Rating: 4
There's nothing wrong with a 4 cores minus 1 processor- It's lower end and has most of the same features.

The best part is going to be the price range :)

Nice and low.

RE: Cool.
By taropie on 2/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Cool.
By HaZaRd2K6 on 2/18/2008 2:02:47 PM , Rating: 5
Just because they aren't as good as Intel's doesn't mean they're worthless. You've gotta realise that 80% of PC users will never need a triple-core, much less a quad-core, processor. I'm willing to bet there's a large percentage of PC users who would notice no performance difference between a Phenom 9500 and a Q6600.

And no, I'm not an AMD fanboy--I love my Q6600 :)

RE: Cool.
By Ardan on 2/18/2008 2:45:36 PM , Rating: 5
You sure are right about that post, no doubt. Just the other day, in fact, I heard this conversation at Best Buy the other day (there was a quad core intel box near a Phenom one..can't remember if it was 9500 or 9600): "I dunno, I am leaning towards the AMD machine because it is cheaper." The guy she was with said, in response, "well, the Intel processor is faster than the AMD one as well." The woman said back: "How do you know? I can't tell one bit of difference."

I'm sure there are many people out there that wouldn't notice the difference. I have heard some people say they didn't care which was technically faster anyway because they were focusing on price. I am sure there will be more and more people doing that now that the economy is in a downturn right now. Like you, I am not a die hard fan of either one (I am quite neutral) and your post reminded me of that overheard conversation. Definitely very true.

RE: Cool.
By mmntech on 2/18/2008 2:56:28 PM , Rating: 2
Just to clarify, all Cell Processors in the PS3 have eight SPEs. One of the cores is deactivated for yield purposes, one is dedicated for the XMB, the rest are for everything else.

In the case of the Phenoms, if it yields cheaper processors for consumers and there are no performance drawbacks or quality issues, why not. The issue of yield has always been a problem for multicore processors since day one. Same with GPUs and pixel pipelines. I doubt most users need four cores at this point. The triple core models should benefit budget gamers like myself.

RE: Cool.
By SlyNine on 2/18/2008 4:28:47 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yea, Saving resources, lowering prices, helping them stay a competitive company, more jobs, More options for OEMs and computer builders. I can see how thats a loss for all... *scratches head.

The fact is you're not getting a defective core, becuase you are not paying for that core. why is that so complicated.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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