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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: Is this the road to profitability
By Misty Dingos on 12/4/2007 8:32:47 AM , Rating: 3
What I think is the issue with this product line (if you can call it that, they are failures of one sort or another) is that there will be an inherent availability issue. Let me explain.

AMD acknowledges that these are manufacturing errors or quad core processors that just didn't quite make it. So they shut off one of the cores and still sell a three core CPU. Which is smart. They are selling a product and making a profit on something that was normally thrown away as scrap.

But the guys that make the processors are going to keep trying to improve the production process and this will inherently reduce the availability of the three core processors. And hopefully their production process is good enough to produce relatively few of the failed quad core turned three core processors in the first place.

This would lead me to believe that the number of three core processors available should be very limited. If they are limited in number and people want to buy them then that will only drive up prices on them. Then they become artificially expensive and price themselves out of their spot on the market.

RE: Is this the road to profitability
By Targon on 12/4/2007 9:08:41 AM , Rating: 2
The way the processor industry operates is that if there are not enough of the slower products available due to better yields of the higher end products, those perfectly good higher end products are clocked down and sold at the slower speed. This is why overclocking is so easy for certain processors, because so many good high-end chips are clocked down and sold at the slower speeds.

Now, if yields are so good that there is a shortage of tri-core processors, the price of the quad-cores will either come down to the point of eliminating the tri-cores or working quad-core chips may have a core disabled intentionally and sold as a tri-core.

I am waiting on the 2.8GHz and above Phenom processors to see how well they will perform. The extra cores may be nice for newer titles that use multi-threading, but I still like playing too many older games to make the lower clock rate a good thing.

By bradley on 12/4/2007 9:33:34 AM , Rating: 4
Yeah, exactly. This is standard practice in the chipmaking industry, including Intel. AMD is simply trying to maximize their profits based on yields. I'm surprised so many people on a tech savvy site wouldn't realize this.

By Hawkido on 12/4/2007 2:02:51 PM , Rating: 3
I kinda like your post... but you forget one thing.

What if all four cores work at the 2.4 Ghz speed. but 3 of the 4 will run within specs at 2.8 Ghz.

Whould it be smarter to sell it as a 2.4 Ghz Quad Core or as a 2.8 Ghz Tri-Core?

If it is not in a server enviroment, do you really need the extra core...

Plus 3 cores will be more compatible for Xbox 360 ports as the 360 has 3 cores.

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