We've been calling it Barcelona or Agena for several months now, but AMD has finally named its next-generation desktop processors; and the new name is Phenom. Not quite as odd sounding as the Athlon was when it was launched, but still very much an AMD product name. The new AMD line up is as follows:

At the top of the product lineup we have the Phenom FX processors (codenamed Agena FX). These processors will be quad-core only and run at the highest clock speeds in AMD's lineup, much like the current Athlon 64 FX. At the Quad FX introduction, AMD indicated that FX processors would be Socket-1207 only, simplifying its product lineup. Unfortunately, AMD has once again reversed its decision and Phenom FX processors will be available in both Socket-1207 and Socket-AM2 flavors.

The Phenom X4 and X2 processors are the sensible versions of the Phenom, these are the ones we will most likely be recommending out of AMD's lineup if history holds true. The X4 and X2 will be Socket-AM2/AM2+ only and are 100% backwards compatible with current AM2 motherboards.

The current Athlon 64 X2 has been renamed to the Athlon X2; given that both AMD and Intel offer 64-bit processors, dropping the 64 from the name makes sense. At the bottom of the list is AMD's Sempron, which is the only single core brand in the product lineup.

AMD hasn't updated us on other details for Phenom, which is a bit odd given how much more forthcoming AMD has been privately about other aspects of its microprocessor plans. Either AMD is doing its best to hide a rough ramp of Phenom or it is sitting on a very powerful weapon to combat Intel with, and we can't get any indication of which it is.

Architecturally, we've already said all there is to say about Phenom. The core is an evolution of the current K8 architecture, with a lot of attention placed on SSE performance and other general IPC enhancements. Phenom will also be the first monolithic quad-core x86 processor to hit the market, which does have some technical advantages but we're not sold on whether or not we'll see any tangible real world benefits over Intel's multiple die approach (e.g. we didn't see any benefit with monolithic dual core vs. multi-die dual core).

Phenom will work in current Socket-AM2/Socket-1207 motherboards with a BIOS update, but it loses the ability to run its Northbridge and CPU cores at separate voltages/clock frequencies. If you buy a new Socket-AM2+/Socket-1207+ motherboard, then the CPU cores and Northbridge can run at separate voltages/frequencies. The benefit of doing this is not only power savings, but AMD has indicated that it can actually run the Northbridge faster than the CPU cores (by 200 - 400MHz) which will improve performance. The L3 cache happens to run on the same voltage plane and at the same frequency as the Northbridge, compounding the performance benefits of using a new "plus-socket" motherboard (Socket-AM2+/Socket-1207+).

The memory hierarchy of Phenom has been improved over the current K8 architecture; there's now an L3 cache shared by all cores and a higher efficiency DDR2 memory controller, which is needed given that there are now more cores vying for the same amount of bandwidth.

AMD has officially confirmed that Phenom will support up to DDR2-1066, reasserting AMD's commitment to the memory technology it switched to a year ago.

What about DDR3?


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  • chucky2 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    The last graphic on page 1 seems to indicate it, but I just wanted to see if you guys could confirm it either way:

    Will Socket-AM2 CPU's work in Socket-AM2+ motherboards?

    You've definitely said AM2+ CPU's will at least work in AM2 motherboards, just wondering if maybe you could confirm the AM2 CPU's will be fully supported by the AM2+ motherboards.

    Thanks either way!

  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Yes, Socket-AM2 CPUs should work in Socket-AM2+ motherboards. I haven't personally tested it yet, but that's what AMD's image at the bottom of page 1 is designed to indicate.

    Take care,
  • chucky2 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Outstanding, Thanks Anand!!!

    Very nice of AMD to leave us with an upgrade path...unlike Intel...

  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    AMD just replaced socket 939 with AM2 last year, breaking that upgrade path. Socket 775 has been around for a while, but will disappear relatively soon. Neither company is going to keep the same socket indefinitely. Reply
  • TA152H - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    What's in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title:--Romeo, doff thy name;
    And for that name, which is no part of thee,
    Take all myself.

    OK, that's a bit melodramatic, but it makes you wonder why both Intel and AMD would doff their well known names. Intel probably because Pentium 4 was quickly becoming "Pentium for?", but look what they replaced it with. Core??? Whatever ass thought of that name should be sterilized. Just a terrible name. Maybe the same person that thought of Celeron? It sounds way too much like a non-nutritive vegetable. Maybe AMD should have just gone with Watermelon, it kills two birds with one stone; it ends in "on" and is a vegetable. Both are apparently of some worth in names, although I have no idea why. Itanium is a cool name though, Intel deserves kudos there.

    Athlon sounded like some sort of fungal growth. I can see two people talking, one tells his friend -- I got an Athlon and his friend replies not to worry, they have good medications for that nowadays. Horrible name. So was Duron, sounded low class and prosaic. Sempron is pretentious and preppy. Opteron is cool though, sounds modern and futuristic. Phenom is pretty good too, obviously it's intended to sound exciting albeit not particularly professional. I'd be real surprised if they ditch Opteron, which sounds much better for that market.

    I'm still surprised AMD dropped Athlon though, it's still a respected name. I mean, anyone who knows anything knows Core 2 is better, but it's not like it's a totally worthless product line Pentium 4 where you not only know it's not as good, but you have an emotional revulsion to the product. It's really kind of strange to me, even though Phenom is a better name. Maybe they feel "AMD" is well known enough that they don't need to be married to Athlon anymore.
  • Crassus - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Honestly, whenever I hear Opteron I still think of a new laundry detergent, not a processor. Reply
  • Kougar - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Just another post to say article images are still not showing up with Opera 9.20. Doesn't matter even if I do a clean reinstall of Opera, I can only view the article images in IE7. Reply
  • ShizNet - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    F12 -> check 'Enable Referrer Logging'
    restart Opera
  • Kougar - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Miracle worker! ;) Thanks a bunch, that seems to have been my problem. Graci Sooo much nicer to be using just Opera again for all my browsing... Reply
  • Final Hamlet - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Conclusion: Get foxy :) Reply

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