SSE128

AMD Architecture Comparison
K8 Barcelona
SSE Execution Width 64-bit 128-bit
Instruction Fetch Bandwidth 16 bytes/cycle 32 bytes/cycle
Data Cache Bandwidth 2 x 64-bit loads/cycle 2 x 128-bit loads/cycle
L2/Northbridge Bandwidth 64 bits/cycle 128 bits/cycle
FP Scheduler Depth 36 Dedicated x 64-bit ops 36 Dedicated x 128-bit ops

Many of the "major" changes to Barcelona were driven by one significant change: what AMD is calling SSE128. In the K8 architecture AMD can execute two SSE operations in parallel; however the SSE execution units are only 64-bits wide. For 128-bit SSE operations, the K8 had to handle them as two 64-bit operations. This also means that when a 128-bit SSE instruction is fetched, it is first decoded into two micro-ops (one for each 64-bit half of the instruction), thus taking up an extra decode port for a single instruction.

Barcelona widens the execution units that handle SSE operations from 64-bits to 128-bits, so now 128-bit SSE operations don't have to be broken up into two 64-bit operations. This also means that you get more usable decode bandwidth since 128-bit SSE instructions now map to a single micro-op instead of two. The FP scheduler can now handle these 128-bit SSE operations as well.

It's the increase to SSE execution width that drove a number of other changes within the core. Since you effectively have more decode bandwidth when executing 128-bit SSE instructions AMD discovered a new bottleneck: instruction fetch bandwidth. These 128-bit SSE instructions tend to be quite large, and in order to maximize the number decoded in parallel the Barcelona core can now fetch 32-bytes per cycle, up from 16-bytes in K8. The 32B instruction fetch not only benefits SSE code but also seems to benefit integer code as well. Bigger instructions in general will see a performance boost here.

Now that you can fetch and decode more instructions, you need to be able to get more data to the execution core and thus AMD widened the interface between the L1 data cache and Barcelona's SSE registers. Barcelona can now perform two 128-bit SSE loads per cycle from the L1-D cache compared to two 64-bit loads per cycle in K8. AMD then widened the interface between the L2 cache and the memory controller so that now 128-bits can be transferred per cycle, once again to balance out all of the aforementioned changes.

The culmination of the SSE128 improvements is very similar to some of the changes made in the Yonah to Merom transition. Prior to Conroe/Merom, Yonah could not keep up with AMD's K8 when it came to FP/SSE performance. Almost a year and a half ago we did an article where we compared AMD's K8 to Intel's Yonah running at the same clock speed. While Yonah was able to equal the K8's performance in general applications, professional 3D rendering and games, it could not compete when it came to video encoding.

There were a number of SSE performance improvements made to Yonah but it wasn't until Intel's Core 2 processors that Intel was really able to outperform AMD in our video encoding tests. Whether the improvements were due to the single cycle SSE throughput introduced in Core 2 or the wider front end or a combination of both remains to be seen. Although it's difficult to compare specs between two very different architectures, encoding performance is a sore spot for AMD today, and it's something that the SSE128 changes can only help.

The Chip Core Tune-up
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  • BitByBit - Tuesday, March 6, 2007 - link

    One apparently overlooked detail of Barcelona's architecture is its instruction fetch ability: Barcelona is able to send 32 bytes (128 bits) to its decoders per cycle, where Core can send only 16 bytes to be decoded, increasing the likelihood of 'split fetch' cases in the latter. This means that, even if Core does have more raw FP power in terms of its execution units, Barcelona can expect greater utilisation of its FPUs/SSE, and the impact of this will be even more pronounced when running 64 bit code, due to the increased size of 64 bit instruction blocks. If Barcelona does, as expected, outperform Core in IPC in 32 bit mode, the performance gap may well increase in 64 bit mode. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    Did you miss page 3? The SSE128 stuff largely deals with FP and cache improvements. Standard FP is still used, but most programs are optimizing for SSE2/3 as that can run circles around x87 FP performance. Reply
  • Spoelie - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    Is there no information on the bandwidth between the new caches? Or are they left the same? I'm only asking because last I read, Intel had a huge advantage in that department, with double or so the bandwidth between the caches. Isn't that important in FP-code, especially if you have to feed 4 cores (so the bw at the level 3 cache..) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    Page 3: the cache bandwidth as I understand it should be doubled (128-bit vs. 64-bit), and several other areas have wider data paths as well. I think Intel has a 256-bit cache bus, so they still have more cache bandwidth, but as a whole it's difficult to say which will end up faster right now. The integrated memory controller has a lot of influence on a lot of areas, after all. Reply
  • Spoelie - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    K7 to K8 transition did the doubling of the 64bit interface to the 128bit one.. Core indeed has a 256bit interface (as far as I remember, even the P3 had a 256bit interface to L2). So according to page 3 the interface would be doubled again this time around?

    I'm only asking because I remember this quote from Johan De Gelas' article a while back.
    "The Core architecture's L1 cache delivers about twice as much bandwidth (Measured by ScienceMark), while it's L2-cache is about 2.5 times faster than the Athlon 64/Opteron one."
    And that must have *some* impact on performance. I think the bandwidth of the L3 cache will also be key, but haven't seen any official information about it.
    Reply
  • BitByBit - Friday, March 2, 2007 - link

    K8 had a 64-bit read and a 64-bit write path to its L2 cache, giving a total of 128 bits. Barcelona has a 128-bit read and 128-bit write path to its L2, giving a total of 256 bits - the same as Core.
    One thing that surprised me on the subject of cache was the associativity of the L1, which I had expected to see increased to 4-way. This would have allowed AMD to extend its lead in L1 hitrate and regain the ground lost in this area since the introduction of Core. Maybe we'll see an improvement to L1 associativity in future iterations of Barcelona.
    Reply
  • haplo602 - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    Great article, was a very interesting read.

    Looks like I'll invest in an upgrade sometime beginning of 2008 when these new CPUs make their 2nd revision :-)
    Reply
  • Gigahertz19 - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    Argh this article is such a cock tease. I read most of it but now I want some prelim benchies or some kind of numbers. Guess we'll have to wait till Mid-2007?

    I can't stand the anticipation, my girlfriend pulls this same shit every now and then, she'll get me going then quit and laugh....I always tell her I'll pull the same thing on her and see how she likes it but I can never gather up enough will power :)
    Reply
  • MrJim - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    Hello Anand, great article as always. I suppose your much at home nowadays building your house etc. But when are we going to read more of your blogs or the relaunch of anandtech? I think the plan was to have many of the staff to have their own blogs?

    Hope you will write more often in the future!
    Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Thursday, March 1, 2007 - link

    I agree, I would like to see more Anand blog entries. The blog currently doesn't seem to be working -- I can't pull up any of the older entries. I would like to go back and read through some of the old Macdates. Reply

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