Earlier this month, Intel introduced their first dual core desktop CPUs - the Pentium D and the Pentium Extreme Edition.  Coupled with extremely aggressive pricing designed to move the majority of the desktop market to dual core within the next two years, Intel's launch did not cease to impress.  The ability to bring workstation class performance in multithreaded and multitasking environments to the desktop, at an affordable price, is something that we've been hoping for for years.  Intel's launch was pretty interesting, but today, AMD has more bang.

From the beginning, AMD has talked about how they were going to bring dual core to the K8 architecture.  The on-die north bridge, a part of every Athlon 64 and Opteron CPU, was designed from the ground up to be able to support multiple cores.  AMD had designed their first dual core K8 CPUs years ago. They were simply waiting for manufacturing processes to mature in order to actually make producing such a chip a feasible endeavor. 

With their 90nm process finally maturing, it made business and financial sense to introduce their first dual core products.  AMD wasn't alone in their decision, as it's obvious that Intel waited for 90nm before making their move to dual core as well.  The problem for both AMD and Intel is that at 90nm, a dual core chip is getting a bit on the large side.  Intel's first dual core CPUs weigh in at 230 million transistors on a 206 mm2 die, and AMD's new CPUs are a bit obese themselves at 233.2 million transistors on a 199 mm2 die.  While the dual core CPUs that we have tested from both AMD and Intel are no slouch, it's clear that both companies are working to transition to 65nm as quickly as possible to make manufacturing these chips much more reasonable.

Although this may seem like a tangent to the topic at hand, manufacturing has a lot to do with today's announcements from AMD.  What exactly is being announced?  Well, for starters, AMD is announcing their first dual core Opteron parts.  The word "announcing" in this sense means that they are declaring availability of their 800 series dual core Opteron CPUs, and promising that 200 and 100 series dual core Opteron CPUs will be made available starting next month.  Before we move on to the rest of the announcement, pay very close attention to the parts for which AMD is announcing availability - the 800 series parts.  The Opteron 800 series CPUs are for use in 4 or more socket servers and are AMD's most expensive CPUs, and thus, their lowest volume CPUs.  Remember that at 90nm, AMD can produce around half as many dual core CPUs as they can single core CPUs per wafer - so they need to be very careful about demand.  You will notice later on in this article that AMD's strategy involves keeping prices higher and introducing lower quantity CPUs first, in order to ensure that their single core CPUs still have a market and that they aren't committing to more than what they can deliver.  At the end of the day, AMD is still a much smaller manufacturer than Intel and thus, they have to play their cards very differently, which leads us to the second part of AMD's announcement today: the new dual core desktop Athlon 64 X2 line.

The Athlon 64 X2 will be AMD's new brand for dual core desktop CPUs.  This line is being talked about today, but an official announcement with full benchmarks won't come until June.  That being said, we have made it a point to bring you a preview of Athlon 64 X2 performance in this article, despite the fact that AMD isn't introducing the chips for another two months.  So, for all of you who are interested to see how AMD's dual core desktop CPUs stack up against the recently introduced Pentium D, never fear, we have what you're looking for. 

The introduction of the Athlon 64 X2 brand also comes with a few other tidbits of information:
  1. The Athlon 64 4000+ was the last single core member of the Athlon 64 line.
  2. The Athlon 64 FX will continue as a single core CPU line, with the FX-57 (2.8GHz) due out later this year.
This article will serve two purposes. First and foremost, we're interested in the new dual core Opterons as a server solution - and we run them through our usual web and database serving tests.  Next, we're going to take a look at the Athlon 64 X2 and how it compares in performance to Intel's recently announced Pentium D.  We've developed even more desktop multitasking tests for this article, so we'll be able to provide you with an idea of how well AMD will be able to compete in the multi-core world. 

We are missing a look at workstation performance between the Opteron and Xeon, but rest assured that such a comparison is in the works.  The usual mix of very limited time and hardware problems (which we will also discuss in this article) forced us to exclude one of the comparisons, and thus, the workstation comparison will have to wait for another day. 

A Look at AMD’s Dual Core Architecture
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  • KillerBob - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    Griswold,

    MT Test 1: PEE 1 - X2 0 Very likely scenario
    MT Test 2: PEE 2 - X2 0 Likely scenario
    MT Test 3: PEE 2 - X2 1 So-so scenario
    MT Test 4: PEE 3 - X2 1 Likely scenario
    MT Test 5: PEE 3 - X2 2 Likely scenario
    MT Test 6: PEE 3 - X2 3 Unlikely scenario

    I play a lot of games, but I never have things in the background, as a matter of fact I don't want to have anyting in the background, except for perhaps a big NewsPro download.
    Reply
  • MrEMan - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    102,

    Artificial stupidity run rampant?

    or

    Natural deselection (survival of the twitest)?
    Reply
  • Quanticles - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    I vote that 90% of the people on here have no idea what they're talking about... lol Reply
  • erwos - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    "It's odd that some picture game developers immediately supporting the PhysX chip as soon as it's available, but think they'll drag their feet to take advantage of another whole CPU core at their disposal."

    It's basically about the implementation differences of the two. You can be relatively certain that PhysX is going to be shipping their chips/cards with libraries that allow game devs to just speed up certain processing with special function calls (ie, calculate_particle_spread()). Multi-threading requires that you design your application from the very start to take advantage of it (mostly - I would wager splitting off the background music to its own thread is reasonably straightforward).

    Game logic doesn't always lend itself to multi-threading, either. If I shoot my gun, I want to hear the sound next. I don't want it to be thrown at the sound thread, where it may or may not execute next. Threading introduces latency, in other words, unless you so tightly bind your threads together that you may as well not use multi-threading.

    -Erwos
    Reply
  • Griswold - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    KillerBob, so that makes you a brilliant illiterate, since it's not what the benchmarks say. :) Reply
  • cHodAXUK - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    #83 Get a clue, a single core 3500+ is faster than the quivelant Opteron at the same speed. Why? Unregistered memory and tigher memory timinings. ECC memory comes with a 2-4% performance penalty but the big difference comes with the command speed, 2T for the Opteron and 1T 3500+, the AMD64 thrives on lower lower latancies that can make as big as an 10% performance difference and that is BEFORE we start to even think about raising the FSB speed which makes a significant difference to overall system perfomance. 15% is in no way unrealistic with a mild overclock and lower latancies, if you don't believe me then email Anand and ask him. Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    Jep4444 (#89) What do you mean X2's "arent nearly as good as the dual core Opterons"??

    Comming from XS I suspect don't OC very well?

    But they are the same cores as the Opterons are. and with ram should run signifigantly faster.

    Or do you mean buggy? That's easily attibuted to BIOS, IE none released yet so no working BIOS.

    How about a link please.
    Reply
  • Umbra55 - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    The benchmark overviews show "dual opteron 252 (2.6 GHz)" all over the review. I suppose this is single 252 instead of dual?

    Please correct accordingly
    Reply
  • emboss - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    #40 (Doormat):
    You're forgetting that the size of a dual-core is (roughly) double that of a single-core. So, assuming 1000 cores/wafer, 70% defect rate per core, then a single-core wafer (with an ASP of $500) will net AMD 700*500 = $350K.

    The same wafer with dual-cores will produce (approximately) 1000/2 * (0.7)^2 = 245 CPUs. So, to get the same amount of cash per wafer, AMD needs an ASP of $1429, or the second core costing 85% more than the first core.

    Of course, it's not quite this simple ("bad" chips running OK at lower speeds, etc) but it's not entirely unreasonable to see dual-cores with prices ~3 times that of a single core at the same speed grade. Intel is almost dumping (in the economic sense of the word) dual-core chips.
    Reply
  • saratoga - Friday, April 22, 2005 - link

    "saratoga, waah? There are similarities between C# and C++. While agree it's java'ish as well, it definitely has similarties to c++. One could say c# shaes similarities with c/c/c++.

    read away:

    http://www.mastercsharp.com/article.aspx?ArticleID...

    http://www.csharphelp.com/archives/archive138.html

    "

    I'm guessing you're not a c++ programmer ;)

    Anyway, yes they both use c syntax, however thats pretty much irrelevent given that Java also uses c syntax (as does Managed c++ which incidently IS the .net language directly based on c++) and I've never heard anyone call it related to c++. Beyond (some) syntax heritage and the fact that they're both OO langauges, they're very different beasts.

    ""C# is directly related to C and C++. This is not just an idea, this is real. As you recall C is a root for C++ and C++ is a superset of C. C and C++ shares several syntax, library and functionality." Quoted from above.

    L8r."

    Err yeah c++ is mostly a superset of c++. Thats neither here nor there. Just try and use the c/c++ preprocessor in c# and you'll see very quickly what the difference is. Or try using c++ multiple inherritance. You'll find that just because you took java and added operator overloading and made binding static by default, its not c++.
    Reply

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