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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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Multi cores aren't the solution
By JoeBanana on 12/4/2007 12:07:35 PM , Rating: 3
No average user would use more than 4 cores. Multi cores are just a market move. A much better solution is one faster CPU.

Programs are executed in serial sequence and as such they don't gain much from multi cores. One may argue that we have thread programing. Yes but usually the one part of the program requires data from previous par t of the program.

Though it is true that if your OS supports multi core processors that each core can run a separate application but the average person runs low CPU intensive applications (OOo, MSN, FF, uTorrent, xmms...) which can be executed in serial in real time. But one could get some use in max of four cores at this point.

The fact is that the frequency border has been reached because processors produce too much heat. There is no room in assembly line time. The only real solution then is in next generation materials, new gates, wires...

Of course multi cores are good for specific operations, like servers that give access to hundreds of people.

By amanojaku on 12/4/2007 2:38:41 PM , Rating: 2
That's true for today's programs, but tomorrow's programs might be optimized for multi-threading.

But look at it from another point of view: should I run 60 processes on one CPU or 15 processes per four CPUs for a total of 60? A lot of OS inefficiency is due to the context switching between processes; by adding more processors and an efficient multi-threaded kernel performance might increase. The communication between cores needs to be efficient, as well, otherwise the bottleneck would just be changed from context switching to interprocess communication, which is worse.

RE: Multi cores aren't the solution
By TomZ on 12/4/2007 5:19:04 PM , Rating: 2
No average user would use more than 4 cores. Multi cores are just a market move. A much better solution is one faster CPU.

That would only be true if your computer could only run one thread and one process at a time.

In reality, most applications run a number of threads, and those threads in turn rely on operating services (e.g., reading a file) which also run some number of threaeds. So even a single application can keep 2+ cores busy.

And that doesn't even count background processes and device driver threads. For example, there's no reason that incoming and outgoing Etherhet packets can't be processed at a very low level by a different core, thus offloading the core running your "single" app and letting it run a little faster.

I'm running on a bit, but I hope you see my point.

By JoeBanana on 12/5/2007 5:38:44 AM , Rating: 2
Of course it's true that we can run more threads and more processes at a time. But does the average computer user need more than 4 cores.

One core can more than easily take care of all the background processes and also run a few low intensive applications in the background(and as far as I know the average user can be focused on 2-6 programs at the time the rest are sleeping). It's not like an average user will code video on one processor, code sound on other, run server on third, write something in OOo...

The term that if you double CPUs you double your program execution isn't true for an average user. Actually if you change from two core to more you wont even notice the difference.

RE: Multi cores aren't the solution
By Strunf on 12/4/2007 6:49:40 PM , Rating: 2
The application you point out could be run on a P3, so what's the point of having faster CPU for them?
Dual, Quad and more are "meant" to people that need more processing power, like video editing, games and others, this kind of programs can "easily" be multi-threaded.

And ray tracing is in the works which could be a major burden for CPU (and very multi-threaded).

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini
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