AMD's dual core Opteron & Athlon 64 X2 - Server/Desktop Performance Previewby Anand Lal Shimpi, Jason Clark & Ross Whitehead on April 21, 2005 9:25 AM EST
- Posted in
Final WordsAt this point, having seen dual core CPUs from both AMD and Intel, there's no question that dual core is desirable on all fronts; whether we're talking about the server world or on your desktop, dual core improves performance by a noticeable amount and the performance benefits will only get better down the road.
As a server solution, the dual core Opterons enable a whole new class of performance to be realized on platforms. Two socket servers will now be capable of having the performance of a 4-way system, something that has never been possible in the past. AMD's push with dual core into the server markets half a year before Intel's dual core Xeon arrives is going to tempt a lot of IT departments out there; the ability to get 4-way server performance at much lower prices is an advantage that can't be beat.
Despite AMD's lead in getting dual core server/workstation CPUs out to market, Intel has very little reason to worry from a market penetration standpoint. We've seen that even with a multi-year performance advantage, it is very tough for AMD to steal any significant business away from Intel, and we expect that the same will continue to be the case with the dual core Opteron. It's unfortunate for AMD that all of their hard work will amount to very little compared to what Intel is able to ship, but that has always been reality when it comes to the AMD/Intel competition.
On the desktop side, we are extremely excited about the Athlon 64 X2. The 4400+ that we compared here today had no problem competing with and outperforming Intel's fastest dual core CPUs in most cases, and at a price of $581, the 4400+ is the more reasonably priced of the X2 CPUs. That being said, we are concerned that availability of the lower cost X2 CPUs will be significantly more limited than the higher priced models. At the ~550 marker, your best bet is clear - the Athlon 64 X2 will be faster than anything that Intel has for the desktop.
What's quite impressive is how competitive the Athlon 64 X2 is across the board. With the Pentium D, we had to give up a noticeable amount of single threaded performance (compared to Intel's top of the line Pentium 4 CPUs) in order to get better multithreaded/multitasking performance, but with AMD, you don't have to make that sacrifice. Everything from gaming to compiling performance on the Athlon 64 X2 4400+ was extremely solid. In multithreaded/multitasking environments, the Athlon 64 X2 is even more impressive; video encoding is no longer an issue on AMD platforms. You no longer have to make a performance decision between great overall performance or great media encoding performance - AMD delivers both with the Athlon 64 X2. Also keep in mind that the performance preview that we gave of the Athlon 64 X2 today is actually a very conservative estimate. The shipping Athlon 64 X2 CPUs will run with regular DDR memory and with much faster motherboards - meaning that you should be prepared to be impressed even further down the road.
The real problem is that AMD has nothing cheaper than $530 that is available in dual core, and this is where Intel wins out. With dual core Pentium D CPUs starting at $241, Intel will be able to bring extremely solid multitasking performance to much lower price points than AMD will. And from what we've seen, it looks like that price advantage will continue for quite some time. It all boils down to economics, and in the sense of manufacturing capacity, Intel has AMD beat - thus allowing for much more aggressively priced volume dual core solutions. Then there's the issue of availability; as impressive as AMD's dual core desktop offerings are, we're honestly worried that we won't see any real volume until late this year at best. Intel does have a golden opportunity now to really step forward and regain some enthusiast marketshare, but we seriously doubt that we'll see anything faster than the Pentium D 3.2 anytime soon. It's strange how tables have turned, making Intel look like the value CPU manufacturer in the dual core race.
Now that we've seen both AMD and Intel dual core solutions, it's time to play the waiting game. Dual core Opteron 8xx series CPUs should be available now, with the 2xx and 1xx series following in about a month. The Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition should be shipping before the end of this month, with expected retail availability next month. And the big wait, of course, will be for the Athlon 64 X2, which will be available towards the end of this year.
Our dual core coverage does not stop here. We have more in the works including the promised Workstation comparison, a look at how multitasking in Linux is impacted by dual core, and even more multitasking scenarios modeled based on your feedback (so, keep it coming).