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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: Oh boy...
By GeorgeOrwell on 12/4/2007 6:55:06 AM , Rating: 1
This move by AMD will play right into Intel's hands. Intel will be able to offer customers a four core chip at every price point that AMD offers a three core chip.

Because Intel's way of making four core chips is simpler and cheaper than what AMD does, Intel can win the price/performance battle at every single price point.

AMD, in effect, is only inventing more ways to lose vs. Intel.


RE: Oh boy...
By FITCamaro on 12/4/2007 7:46:23 AM , Rating: 5
AMDs quad core's are currently priced very well against Intel's. I would say these triple core CPUs will soon be the same cost as todays highest end dual cores in the AMD line. And dual cores will fall even more in price.

Regardless, we're going to be getting a hell of a value for our money. Not everyone needs the absolute best in performance. I recently built my parents a system with an X2 4200+ that I paid $60 for. Intel doesn't have anything that can touch that. And a 4200+ is more than enough CPU for anything they'll ever do. It might not be as fast as a E6400, but it'll still rip through video encoding pretty quick. My parents could care less if the Intel is 30 seconds faster.


RE: Oh boy...
By Chaser on 12/4/2007 9:35:13 AM , Rating: 3
Excuse me George but what AMD is trying to do operate in the most cost effective manner by maximizing their resources and value. Utilizing and marketing an otherwise wasted CPU that failed a quad core quality check but functions flawlessly as a tri-core I would say is a very efficient use of resources and probably a good idea for a company that has to be very cost conscious under the present circumstances for AMD. Believe it or not AMD does have investors that want to see the operating as efficiently as possible.

Will it pay off for AMD? Time will tell but if the price/performance works well they may sell a few rather than tossing them in the scrap heap. I don't know about you but I want AMD competitive. But the notion of AMD "playing into Intel's hands" rings of wishful fanboi thinking.


RE: Oh boy...
By Manch on 12/4/2007 10:59:13 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, thats why I think AMD should sell the Tricores at dual core prices, not try to find and "in between" price and make that price competitive with Intels dual core offerings.

This way while the chip might be ~10% slower than an equivalent priced Intel dual core the extra core will give them the advatage in multitasking and programs that scale well with multiple proccessors. Then AMD can say "Intel gives you two cores, we're giving you 3 for the price of two!" It would make good marketing sense.

Since they are pushing these Tricores they should just abandon dual cores all together. Then they can devote those fabs making dual cores to quadcore manufacturing and use the quads with only 3 functioning cores for their tricore series.

Intel manufactures only dual cores and puts two together to make its quad core. This adds to their huge manufacturing advantage.

AMD has to manufacture two lines, dual and quad. Coupled with their comparitively small manufacturing capability, poor yields, and the fact that they are behind on the move to 45nm proccess it woulld make sense to just move to one line.

If the L3 cache is hurting clock speed I say first how much of a performance difference is there between an L3 equipped and a no L3 equiped proccessor. If the difference is negligible I say good riddance. Get rid of it shrink the die and ramp up the clock speed to make it competitive. Plus shrinking the die means more procs per platter, and that means cheaper procs.


RE: Oh boy...
By TomZ on 12/4/2007 4:36:00 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
AMD, in effect, is only inventing more ways to lose vs. Intel.

You're right about that. In the end, there seem to be two basic solutions to the core-yield problem:

1. Separately build, test, and the co-package cores or groups of cores ("Intel approach")

2. Build all cores into the design, test, and selectively disable faulty cores and sell them as lower-grade parts ("AMD approach")

It seems to me that the Intel approach is better, not just because it solves the yield problem well, but because you are also building both many/all dual- and quad-core processors from the same silicon design. This improves total overall yield and helps drive cost reduction further than AMD's approach of having totally separate designs.

AMD's approach could be superior if there was a performance gain to be had from the more "pure" architecture, but so far AFAIK there are no benefits to be had.


RE: Oh boy...
By MandrakeQ on 12/5/2007 1:03:45 AM , Rating: 2
AMD lacks the MCM technology to join cores like Intel does. If they did have the means, they would have released quad cores much much earlier.

It makes no sense not to do this financially, as you stated. Eventually, Intel will also have native quad cores, and they may end up releasing a tri-core based on that design.


"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken

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