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AMD has something for everyone with its new tri-core processors, but quite a lot is still marked "tentative"

AMD picked up big headlines the day before Intel's Fall Developer Forum with the announcement of its upcoming tri-core processors. 

AMD's original release did not specify if this tri-core processor, code named Toliman, would be a totally new processor or merely a stripped-down version of the existing Agena core. The answer, it appears, is both.

In an embargoed corporate roadmap forwarded to DailyTech, details of these new triple-core oddities came to light.

The first triple-core processor, Toliman, is essentially a core-disabled version of the Agena quad-core processor. It includes a full Agena package, including the 2MB of shared L3 cache, with one core disabled.

Toliman, which will eventually herald the AMD Phenom 8000-product name, is scheduled to launch in February 2008 with mass availability in March.  AMD representatives, speaking on conditions of anonymity, confirmed the initial  2.4 GHz Phenom 8700 and 2.3 GHz Phenom 8600 tri-core processors will launch with a 95W thermal envelope.

In late 2008, AMD will shift almost all of its 65nm quad-core offerings to 45nm.  AMD will then follow up these initial quad-core offerings with 45nm dual-core and triple-core processors in 2009. 

The first of these 45nm tri-core processors, codenamed Heka, will launch with DDR2 and DDR3 support.  However, AMD guidance also details that Heka will ship with two different varieties: one with a shared L3 cache, another without.  All 45nm quad-core AMD processors incorporate shared L3 cache, with the exception of the Propus family processor.

AMD guidance goes on to state that all mainstream Phenom quad-core processors, both with shared L3 cache (Deneb) and without (Propus), shipped in 2009 will feature DDR3 exclusively.  Heka, on the other hand, will feature a mix of DDR2 and DDR3 support.

Unfortunately the answers for tri-core only raise further questions.  While Heka has a unique codename, it seems to be a combination of cut-down Deneb and Propus quad-core processors. The logical conclusion would be that Heka is merely excess or defective Deneb and Propus processors from the 2008 launch. 

Yet AMD's roadmap goes on to detail one more chip: RegorRegor, which has always been described by AMD as a dual-core version of Deneb, will make its debut with variable shared L3 cache and a mix of DDR2 and DDR3 support. Could it be that Regor is a core-disabled version of Heka, which is already likely a core-disabled version of Deneb/Propus?

One AMD representative declined to comment on these 45nm processors, stating that 2009 processor launches and specifications are still "tentitive."


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RE: Three cores?
By StevoLincolnite on 12/4/2007 6:19:23 AM , Rating: 2
Thats not always accurate though, it gets more complicated when you factor in that a More expensive Single core can outperform a really cheap dual core.


RE: Three cores?
By Jacerie on 12/4/07, Rating: 0
RE: Three cores?
By Targon on 12/4/2007 8:56:46 AM , Rating: 2
That is not a correct assessment of how things work when it comes to additional cores. A big factor is how the cores talk to each other, and how well the cache is used between the cores. In the case of cores and multi-threaded applications, the more cores you have will allow for a better distribution of program threads between the cores.

When it comes to memory or other components, there are technical reasons why you see increases that follow the binary increments, but in this case, you just have an extra core that the OS can assign threads to.

The real problem that AMD needs to address is getting clock speeds up, since single-threaded applications will still run on only one core, and a 2.4GHz Phenom quad-core will probably run a single-threaded application slower than a 2.8GHz Athlon 64 X2(depending on what other applications are running at the same time).


RE: Three cores?
By DM0407 on 12/4/2007 9:11:17 AM , Rating: 2
Can we expect similar real world performance from a tri-core?

Unless your running multiple programs at once, the computer would not be able to take advantage of all 4 cores, with the same L3 Cache as a 4 core, and most programs designed to run on two cores (if that), couldn't a chip like this run with little to no noticeable difference?

Especially in current gen games, there most likely would be no difference in a similarly clocked tri/quad core chip. We'll see when they get some reviews done.

All the benefit of the technology, larger cache, lower price. I would buy it! Hell if you guys don't want it, that will only drive the price down more. Cheaper for me!

In the meantime, AMD has now become the largest manufacturer of paper and ink....


RE: Three cores?
By StevoLincolnite on 12/4/2007 8:21:52 AM , Rating: 1
Because I was rated down, I gather any Dual core processor can beat the fastest Single core?


RE: Three cores?
By FITCamaro on 12/4/2007 9:20:35 AM , Rating: 2
In a single threaded task yes. But in a multithreaded task, your single core would have to be at double the clock speed of the dual core assuming the cores between the dual core and the single have the same efficiency.

But a 2GHz dual core is generally going to beat a 2.5GHz single core processor when running an application that will fully utilize both cores as much as possible as it would the single core.


RE: Three cores?
By mindless1 on 12/4/2007 10:11:51 AM , Rating: 2
Which is never the case. Few if any fully utilize both cores and further, few if any buyers replace all their apps with a CPU purchase.

The single core would almost never have to be at double the clock speed as the dual.

For practical purposes we can ignore all this, the primary focal point is the price. Only when the budget is high enough that this budget stretches beyond the reasonable cost-effective ceiling clock speed a single core of any era can run at, does it become uniformly advantageous to use two or more slower cores. Since clock speed is not infinite and a budget can easily stretch beyond a single core clockspeed ceiling, dual cores began to make sense and now that price point is around $85.


RE: Three cores?
By StevoLincolnite on 12/4/2007 10:21:36 AM , Rating: 2
Its a similar thing with SLI though, adding another GPU/Core does not Yield double the performance, as there is always going to be inefficiency's somewhere along the lines.

So you would be incorrect in assuming Twice the clock speed of a single core = a dual core.


RE: Three cores?
By StevoLincolnite on 12/4/2007 10:19:06 AM , Rating: 2
So then, find a benchmark where an Athlon X2 beats out an Athlon FX, of the same generation.
Because:
http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2005/06/27/amd_fx...
http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2005/06/27/amd_fx...
http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/amd_athlon_64_...
http://www.amdboard.com/athlon_64_3800_review_6.ht...
Seems the FX 57 single core manages to beat the Athlon 64 X2 4800+.
And the FX chippys have an un-locked multiplier which allows for more overclocking headroom.

So it seems the dual-cores don't win in every circumstance even when a program is multi-threaded.


RE: Three cores?
By Vinnybcfc on 12/4/2007 2:00:35 PM , Rating: 2
I agree just posters like Oobu cant seem to get into their heads that a triple core is not a pointless processor.

A faster triple core can beat a quad core processor.

It all comes down to what these will be priced at in relation to dual cores and quad cores.


RE: Three cores?
By Dactyl on 12/4/2007 2:38:48 PM , Rating: 1
If fast tri-cores outperform sluggish quad cores, that will only make Oobu hate them even more.

Posters like Oobu aren't concerned about practicalities. They cling to a weird belief that CPUs should be "perfect."

These are the people who hated Core 2 Quad because it wasn't native. Now, they have a new CPU to hate, because it doesn't meet their ideological standards.

There's not much you can do for them. Just smile, nod, downrate them, and move on.


RE: Three cores?
By Oobu on 12/5/2007 2:25:42 AM , Rating: 2
I love posting flamebait here. It gets you guys so worked up.


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