Updates on Hammer
Although Fab 30 will be initially the only place AMD manufactures their Athlon 64 and Opteron processors, its worth mentioning that Hammer CPUs werent scattered all over the place at the fab. Remember that Fab 30 is first and foremost a manufacturing facility, and the actual packaging and assembly is done off-shore so at most we could find wafers of Hammer cores but nothing more.
The testing and validation labs in the US are where youre more likely to find fully functional Hammer systems, which is expected but still funny considering that Fab 30 is where the chip is being made and there are so few of them floating around.
With the launch of Hammer a quarter away at most, AMD has already begun producing final silicon out of Fab 30. As they mentioned to us during our time at the plant, it takes approximately three months of leadtime in order to regularly crank out the CPUs so Hammer production began at the very end of last year.
We also tried to get some more clarification involving the delay of Hammer, as it did not seem to be related to manufacturing issues. If you take into account the die size differences between Hammer and Athlon XP and compare the yields, currently Hammer is yielding just as high as the 0.13-micron Athlon XP CPUs and apparently yields have not really been a problem during the Hammer production process. Instead, AMD reiterated that the reason for the delay in the CPUs launch was the performance and design of the part. Once all of the performance issues were hammered out (no pun intended) and the design was finalized then AMD was able to crank it up a notch and work towards the final stretch before the CPUs release. Hammers design being the cause of the delays makes a lot of sense considering that AMDs 0.13-micron process has been in action for a decent amount of time now, and manufacturing a 0.13-micron SOI Hammer and a 0.13-micron Thoroughbred are apparently very similar.
With yields high, production ramping up and strong support from their partners it seems as if Hammer is finally ready for its debut. The motherboards and chipsets are quite stable and with final CPU silicon being produced the only question that remains is how fast the first CPUs will be. At Comdex last year AMD had a handful of Athlon 64s running at 1.8GHz and theyve been targeting a ~2GHz launch all along, it will be interesting to see how much farther above 2GHz AMD is able to hit by the time the CPU launches. From what weve seen, a 2GHz Athlon 64 will definitely be competitive with Intels 3.06GHz Pentium 4 but at this point the market is expecting as much as possible from AMD.