The last time we had a turn around like this was when NVIDIA launched the GeForce FX. NVIDIA gave us a weekend, Superbowl Weekend to be exact, to review its latest GPU back in 2003. History was bound to repeat itself, and this time it was AMD keeping us occupied all weekend.

We got a call earlier in the week asking if we'd be able to turn around a review of AMD's Barcelona processor for Monday if we received hardware on Saturday. Naturally we didn't decline, and as we were secretly working on a Barcelona preview already, AMD's timing was impeccable.

What we've been waiting for

AMD shipped us a pair of 2U servers a day early, we actually got them on Friday but being in Denver at CEDIA we couldn't begin testing until Saturday. Luckily, Johan had Barcelona in Europe for over a week by this point and was already hard at work on server benchmarks. I augmented Johan's numbers with some additional results on these servers, but I had other plans in mind for the Barcelona system that AMD was sending me.

We went from no Barcelona, to fist-fulls of Barcelona in one weekend

You see, we've known for a while that Barcelona was going to do well for AMD on the server side. AMD is far more competitive there than in the desktop market, mostly thanks to its Direct Connect architecture, something Intel won't be able to duplicate until the end of 2008 with Nehalem. Barcelona will improve clock-for-clock performance over Opteron and is a drop in replacement for Socket-1207 servers with nothing more than a BIOS update; the Enterprise world couldn't be happier.

Things are different on the desktop; AMD hasn't been competitive since the launch of Core 2 in the Summer of 2006 and we're very worried that even after Phenom's late-year launch, the market still won't be competitive. While that's great for consumers today, the concern is that a non-competive AMD will bring about a more complacent Intel, which we do not want. We want the hungry Intel that we've enjoyed for the past year, we want ridiculous performance and aggressive pricing, and we won't get that without an AMD that can fight.

But AMD won't tell us anything about how Phenom will perform, other than that it will be competitive with Conroe/Kentsfield. So the goal here today is to get an idea of exactly how much faster Barcelona (the same core that'll be in Phenom X4) will be compared to the Athlon 64 X2.

We'll have more Barcelona server content coming as we spend more time with the system, but be sure to check out Johan's coverage to get a good idea of how Barcelona will compete in its intended market. If you're not familiar with Barcelona/Phenom architecture, or if you're confused as to exactly what Phenom is here's some required reading before proceeding.

2.0GHz Today, 2.5GHz Tomorrow


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  • lopri - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Was thinking the exact same thing. Because the ~20% advantage in games just didn't make sense considering that the gaming benchmark is probably the most single-threaded in nature. If taken as its face value, the performance gain would be huge (which only would grow as the number of core increases). Reply
  • PlasmaBomb - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    CPU-z says the voltage required to achieve 2.5GHz on a Barcelona was 1.52V, what was it set to in the BIOS? Reply
  • Spuke - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link looks like AMD will be a great alternative to Intel. The present K8 is already competitive performance-wise with Conroe and the Barcelona core looks to be MUCH quicker than K8. If Penryn is only 5% faster than Conroe, then I foresee Phenom being equal to Penryn. Well, that is unless you believe single digit gains to be LARGE advantages. Reply
  • Hulk - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    "The present K8 is already competitive performance-wise with Conroe..."

    Huh? Every review I've ever read comparing K8 with Conroe shows Conroe being significantly faster in 9 out of 10 tests at the same clockspeed.

  • Sunbird - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    And the reviews with P4s and A64 were showing the A64 winning 9 out of 10 at same clockspeeds, the megahertz myth is busted. The only thing that really matters is price to performance and to some overclocking and maybe platform cost and heat... Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Except the post being replied to did not mention price, only performance. In the desktop market Intel currently beats AMD clock for clock and their top parts are clearly faster than AMD top parts. Depending on how much you get your processor for, AMD can be competitive on price per dollar, but on pure performance not so much right now. Reply
  • Spuke - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    I said competitive with Intel not "hair on fire" faster than Intel. Two different things. At the framerates these CPU's are getting nowadays, the performance differences are irrelevant at least in gaming and near irrelevant in other benchmarks. Unless you're making money of these systems where every second counts, the differences are truly insignificant. And I won't get into the J6P market. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    Well, I don't game, so framerates in that sense are rather meaningless to me. On the other hand if I have a couple hundred photos to convert from RAW to TIFF, then open in CS2 and apply some other corrections, the time savings of running on a 3GHz quad-core C2D over a 3GHz AMD solution (1 or two processor) can be significant. I'd imagine those who do video rendering feel the same way. Reply
  • Regs - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    It's really too early to tell. It's what we all expected. They should of been released at 2.6 and scaled up to 3.0+ Ghz. Not 1.8 to 2.5 Ghz. Reply
  • hirschma - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    I'd love to know what happens when a Barcelona is inserted into an AMD 4x4 platform. Does it work? Reply

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