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New Phenom triple-core processor coming in 2008

AMD today updated its roadmap with another multi-core processor, to slot between its dual and quad-core processors – Phenom triple-core processors. The new Phenom triple-core processors feature three processing cores on a single die and based on AMD’s Barcelona architecture, which launched last week in Opteron form.

The new triple-core processors will feature similar specifications as its upcoming Phenom X2 and X4 brethren. The Socket AM2+ processors feature 512KB of L2 cache for each core and a shared pool of L3 cache. Essentially, the Phenom triple-core processors are quad-core variants with one core disabled. This allows AMD to simply disable one core on quad-core dies for maximum use of a single wafer.

AMD claims to be the only company to offer tri-core processors, which the company claims to bring “true multi-core technology to a broader audience.” AMD has not given the Phenom triple-core processors an official name yet. However, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the tri-core processors followed the current Phenon naming scheme and received the Phenom X3 name.

“With our advanced multi-core architecture, AMD is in a unique position to enable a wider range of premium desktop solutions, providing a smarter choice for customers and end users,” said Greg White, vice president and general manager, Desktop Division, AMD. “As a customer-centric company, AMD is committed to working with our OEMs to deliver compelling value propositions across their multi-core product families with capabilities that address their requirements and aspirations.”

Features unique to AMD’s Barcelona and Stars architectures such as split power planes and dynamic independent core speed adjustments remain supported on triple-core processors. Additionally, AMD Phenom triple-core processors support HyperTransport 3.0 for up to 16GB/second of I/O bandwidth.

AMD claims significant performance gains over dual-core processors with its triple-core processors in benchmarks such as SYSmark 2007 and 3DMark06, where gaming and digital content creation performance is key.

“A continued commitment to elegant design and innovative processor architecture is instrumental to revolutionizing the technology industry,” said Richard Shim, research manager for IDC's Personal Computing program. “The advent of triple-core processors is a valuable market opportunity for customers to deliver end users compelling solutions and further differentiate on the desktop.”

Expect AMD to launch its Phenom triple-core processors in Q1 2008. AMD plans to launch its quad-core Phenom X4 next quarter.

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RE: What market segment is this aimed at?
By jak3676 on 9/17/2007 11:35:43 PM , Rating: 2
Added thoughts

Disabling one core won't save you much in terms of wattage on AMD's current architecture. All of the cores run at the same voltage, although they can clock themselves lower for some saved wattage. At first I was thinking that this may allow you to cut the TDP to 3/4 of the original quad-core, but I'm guessing it would be more like 7/8 or 9/10 of the original TDP.

I don't see this being an added benifit for overclocking either. With the majority of your chip still running at full power, you'd end up with some odd heating patterns, but probably only very limited advantage in terms of overclocking. You may be able to squeeze a few more MHz out of it, but I think the dual-core versions will probably prove better for O/C than the tri's. We'll definately have to wait for some tests on this point.

The only advantage I can see would be that you end up with more efefctive L3 cache per core (same amount, just shared between fewer cores). I kinda doubt that there will be programs to take advantage of this, but it may have some use in programs that need to share large amounts of data in between cores. I think I'm reaching too far on this idea - maybe I'm just not seeing it.

RE: What market segment is this aimed at?
By sackland on 9/17/2007 11:53:56 PM , Rating: 2
Key wording here being "current architecture", if these CPUs were used on one of the new motherboards with split power planes I bet you would see a power improvement over quad core. In addition if they can do like the GPU guys already do and have fusible logic, they could fully disable a core at packaging and keep it from using power.

(nVidia and ATI can sometimes fuse or turn off unusable shaders and sections of the cores which is how we sometimes end up with lower SKUs of the products with lesser power and performance yet same clocks)

RE: What market segment is this aimed at?
By jak3676 on 9/18/2007 12:23:50 AM , Rating: 2
in terms of "current architecture", the split power plane is only a split between the memory controller and the cores - it is not a split between the cores.

from Anand Tech's article

AMD has made numerous improvements compared to the K8 core:
The FPU unit can be turned off when not needed
Clock gating is implemented much better
Each core can run at its own frequency (but the voltage is the highest needed by either core)
Power for the core and memory controller are split

I do agree that there would be some power savings here, but we're not talking about disabling 1/4 of the chip. With ~ 460 million transistors for the entire CPU, the number of non-cache transistors in the Barcelona core is ~250 million total or ~62 million per core. So disabling one core cuts out just over 13% of the total transistors.

RE: What market segment is this aimed at?
By jak3676 on 9/18/2007 2:06:44 PM , Rating: 4
I don't really mind getting rated up or down for my usual rambling - but can someone explain why this post got rated down? This is straigt fact and numbers. If I quoted a number wrong, please let us all know.

By deeznuts on 9/18/2007 11:08:17 PM , Rating: 2
Fanboys, just ignore it. They sometimes act irrationally, so asking or thinking about it rationally isn't going to get you anywhere.

By mars777 on 9/19/2007 3:23:16 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe because individual cores can already save power and clock by themselves with cool&quiet.
This is only made to clock differently the IMC thus saving power when it's not 100% loaded with memory requests.

By jak3676 on 9/17/2007 11:57:31 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that it doesn't necessarily have to be a matter of having a core that won't work at all. If one of them won't clock as high as the other three it may make more sense to just disable it.

i.e. 3 cores are stable at 2.5GHz, but one of the cores isn't stable past 2.0GHz - so do you sell it as a 2.5GHz tri-core CPU or a 2.0GHz quad-core?

I would thik that AMD would be more interested in fixing the root level manufactuing problem though.

Another way to think about it, may be that AMD has been able to boost the clock speed across the CPU, but only by cutting power to one of the cores. (in other words there is not a problem with any of the cores, but if you disable any one of them, then you can clock the rest of the CPU higher.) If this is the case though it would seem to suggest that there is an archetectual problem with heat dissipation though.

By praeses on 9/18/2007 12:53:13 PM , Rating: 2
As jak3676 said:
you end up with more effective L3 cache per core (same amount, just shared between fewer cores)

(corrected typo)

If this is marketted correctly this could be quite significant for price/performance. Approach wise, its not much different than the Radeon 9500 of yesteryear although we probably are not going to be able to re-enable the core on select cpus. I do not recall many people complaining about the 9500 even if they weren't planning on unlocking those pipelines.

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