Introduction

A "Simulated 2.6GHz" AMD quad-core would beat the best Intel Xeon by 42%, or so we were told back in March at CeBIT. AMD's latest is a device with 463 million transistors designed to run at a clock speed of at least 2.2GHz, possibly 2.8GHz. Scheduled for launch in the middle of 2007, Intel's best Xeons would be once again in the rearview mirror of their AMD competitors. AMD's third generation Opteron sure looked very promising back in early spring 2007.

June, July, and August went by, but still no Barcelona, and when the news started to trickle in that AMD's newest quad-core would only reach 2GHz, AMD's future didn't look so bright anymore. It became even worse as the launch date and details of the newest 45nm Xeons popped up on a public webpage for resellers: November the 11th. New Xeons at clock speed up to 3.16GHz are thus only a few months away. "Not so bright" turned into "grim" - even "dark, really dark".


Luckily, today is the launch of AMD's third generation Opterons. It's only at 2GHz right now, but it's packed with many clever tricks to improve the number of instructions per cycle (IPC). There's also a surprise in store: 2.5GHz samples are already in the AnandTech lab, and they will be available to everyone in the fourth quarter. So there is a chance we still are going to experience an old fashioned breakneck race; a heated battle of epic proportions between AMD and Intel for the top spot in the server market. However, this will only occur if AMD's newest quad-core is able to outperform the Intel alternatives clock for clock by a decent margin. Read on to see whether AMD has been able to pull that one off...

Before we start, here are a few important notes on our testing. We were only given a few days with the newest quad-core before the NDA was finished. As a result our server benchmarking is only a preview, and we'll follow up with more details in the near future. Also, instead of repeating all of AMD's improvements to the core again, we'll simply refer to our previous article about Barcelona's architecture. We'll discuss these architectural improvements further together with the relevant benchmarks.

Finally, for those that are wondering what happens if you pick up a quad-core Opteron server and try to use it as a desktop (or just a hardware editor looking to predict Phenom performance as best as we're able), Anand has put together an AMD Phenom Preview where he does exactly that. Getting the GeForce 8800 GTX into a server chassis took some work, and the focus is on K8 versus Barcelona performance scaling, but the results might give a decent indication of where Phenom X4 will land in a couple months.

AMD's Newest Quad-Core
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  • Phynaz - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Isn't this intentionally crippling the system? Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    No. Just check what Intel and other companies do when they submit Specjbb scores for example. With HW prefetch on, you get about 10% lower scores. Reply
  • nj2112 - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    Was HW prefetching off for all tests ? Reply
  • lplatypus - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    I thought that 2x00 series CPUs only supported one coherent hypertransport link, so would this mean that the "Dual Link" feature involving two HT links would require 8300 series CPUs? Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    Well, maybe the changed that and all links are active (to enable setups like this) and the CPU just refuses to comunicate more than one coherent hopa away.. Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    Well, maybe the changed that and all links are active (to enable setups like this) and the CPU just refuses to comunicate more than one coherent hopa away.. Reply
  • MDme - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Let the games begin! Reply
  • Viditor - Thursday, September 13, 2007 - link

    Are you going to be re-doing the review with the shipping version (stepping BA) anytime soon?
    I'm most curious to see if the improvement of 5%+ claims are true...
    Reply
  • MDme - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    I think Barcelona will be a success in the server world. It's performance is around 20% faster than equivalently clocked xeons with the exception of certain programs like fritz and the linpack intel library where it is around 5-10% slower. But since it scales better than the xeon chips it should negate that and increase it's lead on others as core/sockets increase. add to that it's power efficiency tweaks and aggressive pricing, AMD will be able to hold off intel in the server world.....maybe.

    With 2.5Ghz Barceys coming up that would be equivalent to around 3-3+ Ghz xeons. So AMD was right that they need to get to 2.6 Ghz....AMD needs to ramp up clock to get the highest-end performance crown, but for now, their offering offers a nice balance of performance and power efficiency for the price.

    Now time for the Phenom to get it's act together.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    The article should have mentioned the performance penalty Intel chips are suffering from with regards to FB-DIMMS. While it's true they should be benchmarked in servers with with memory, it's also widely rumored that they are going to be offering choices in the near future. This memory has a really big impact on a lot of benchmarks, so when looking towards the future, or desktop, it's important to keep in mind the importance of Intel using different memory. I don't think even Intel is stubborn enough to stick with this seriously slow, and power hungry memory. Maybe as a choice it's fine, but it must be clear to them that offering something else as well as FB-DIMMs is very desirable in the server space. Then again, look at how long they stuck with Rambus. Reply

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