AMD CPU Roadmap: Q4'04 Two Heads are Better than Oneby Jarred Walton on December 18, 2004 12:00 AM EST
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AMD CPU Roadmap Update2004 is coming to a close, and it has been a pretty exciting year for AMD. While it launched in 2003, 2004 was the year that the Athlon 64 really came into its own. Prices dropped to more affordable levels, and performance was improved to the point where even the best that Intel has to offer in the way of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is not able to score a victory over the top AMD processors. In fact, AMD has several processors that are currently beating Intel's top chips in the majority of applications. With such a successful year now completed, do we have more of the same to look forward to in 2005? That's difficult to say: hindsight is always 20-20, but predicting the future is far more difficult.
The buzz for the coming year is all centered around multi-cored processors - mostly dual core, but we may see quad core chips in the enterprise segment, and the future will almost certainly bring chips with more than two cores in a package. There are other areas besides the high-end multi-core arena, and we haven't seen the end of increasing clock speeds yet. Besides the high-end enthusiast/workstation/server market, we have the mainstream and value markets. The high-end may be good for bragging rights, but the vast majority of chips sold are in the value and mainstream markets. Here, then, is the latest look at what AMD is planning in each of these areas, starting with the performance processors.
|AMD Desktop Athlon 64 Roadmap|
|Processor||Clock Speed||Socket||Launch Date||End of Line|
|Athlon >= FX-57||???||Socket 939||Q1'06|
|Athlon FX-57||???||Socket 939||Q3'05|
|Athlon FX-55||2.6 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 939||Now|
|Athlon FX-53||2.4 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 939||Now|
|Athlon FX-53||2.4 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 940||Now|
|Athlon FX-51||2.2 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 940||Now|
|Athlon 64 >=4200+||???||Socket 939||Q3'05|
|Athlon 64 4000+||2.4 GHz||Socket 939||Now|
|Athlon 64 3800+||2.4 GHz||Socket 939||Now|
|Athlon 64 3700+||???||Socket 939||Q2'05|
|Athlon 64 3700+||2.4 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 754||Now||Q4'05|
|Athlon 64 3500+||2.2 GHz 90 nm||Socket 939||Now|
|Athlon 64 3500+||2.2 GHz||Socket 939||Now|
|Athlon 64 3400+||2.4 GHz 512K L2||Socket 754||Now||Q4'05|
|Athlon 64 3400+||2.2 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 754||Now||Q3'05|
|Athlon 64 3200+||2.2 GHz 512K L2||Socket 754||Now||Q4'05|
|Athlon 64 3200+||2.0 GHz 90 nm||Socket 939||Now|
|Athlon 64 3200+||2.0 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 754||Now||Q3'05|
|Athlon 64 3000+||2.0 GHz 512K L2||Socket 754||Now||Q4'05|
|Athlon 64 3000+||1.8 GHz 90 nm||Socket 939||Now||Q3'05|
|Athlon 64 2800+||1.8 Ghz||Socket 754||Now||Q1'05|
If you compare that with our last AMD roadmap, you'll notice that there are very few changes. In fact, the only really new information is the appearance of a 3700+ socket 939 part. We would assume that this uses the new Venice core, which should include 512K L2 cache and SSE3 support. Unfortunately, precise features and clock speeds remain an unknown at present for many of the upcoming chips. The FX-57 could be a dual core chip, or else it could be a 2.8 GHz single core chip - we really can't say which yet.
In addition to adding support for SSE3, there are rumors that AMD will begin supporting DDR2 with their next processor revisions. At present that remains wild speculation. A new memory type would require new motherboards at the very least, and probably a new CPU socket as well. (Having two CPUs that share the same socket and yet support different memory types - due to the integrated memory controller - would create a lot of confusion among customers. We find it hard to imagine that AMD would take such an approach.) DDR2 also has increased latencies relative to DDR RAM, and the additional bandwidth offered does not seem to benefit Athlon 64 very much. All things considered, then, we assume that AMD will continue using only DDR memory and socket 939 for at least the first half of 2005.
You might note that we have added an "EOL" column for the processors. This is only for the desktop versions of the chips, and it indicates AMD's plans for when to phase out each model. In the past, we might see processors drop well below the $100 mark before they were discontinued, but now that AMD has closed the performance gap with Intel, they are halting the shipment of their "performance" processors once they drop below about $120. This raises the average sale price of AMD's processors, and that's a good thing as a more profitable AMD is a more competitive AMD. As we mentioned in the last update, all of the socket 754 chips are scheduled for EOL by Q3'05; beyond that, Athlon 64 will only be available on socket 939. Take these EOL dates with a grain of salt, however, as mobile variants will continue to be sold and will work in most - if not all - desktop boards. Below $120, AMD has their "value" offerings, and they pick up in performance basically where the more expensive processors leave off.
|AMD Desktop Sempron Roadmap|
|Processor||Clock Speed||Socket||Launch Date||End of Line|
|Sempron >= 3500+||???||Socket 754||Q1'06|
|Sempron 3400+||???||Socket 939||Q3'05|
|Sempron 3400+||???||Socket 754||Q4'05|
|Sempron 3300+||???||Socket 754||Q2'05|
|Sempron 3200+||???||Socket 939||Q1'05|
|Sempron 3200+||???||Socket 754||Q1'05|
|Sempron 3100+||1.8 GHz||Socket 754||Now|
|Sempron 3000+||???||Socket 939||Q1'05|
|Sempron 3000+||???||Socket 754||Q1'05|
|Sempron 2800+||???||Socket 754||Q1'05||Q1'06|
|Sempron 2600+||???||Socket 754||Q1'05||Q4'05|
|Sempron 3000+||2.00 GHz 512K||Socket A||Now||Q3'05|
|Sempron 2800+||2.0 GHz||Socket A||Now||Q3'05|
|Sempron 2600+||1.83 GHz||Socket A||Now||Q3'05|
|Sempron 2500+||1.75 GHz||Socket A||Now||Q3'05|
|Sempron 2400+||1.67 GHz||Socket A||Now||Q1'05|
|Sempron 2300+||1.58 GHz||Socket A||Now||Q1'05|
|Sempron 2200+||1.5 GHz||Socket A||Now||Q1'05|
There are a few new additions to the value lineup since our last look, including the arrival of Sempron chips for socket 939. Clock speeds, again, remain somewhat unknown. However, given the apparent lack of working .5X multipliers for Athlon 64 motherboards, we would guess that they will come in 200 MHz increments from the current chips. Feel free to fill in the blanks. Sempron variants featuring SSE3 support should be arriving via the Palermo chips in early 2005, but where the current Paris ends and the new Palermo begins is anyone's guess. The newer parts will use a 90 nm process, so that should make spotting them somewhat easier. Overlapping model numbers continue to create some confusion, so pay close attention to the details when ordering any of these chips. With the value lineup transitioning to socket 754 - and AMD's roadmap makes this the clear intention - the days of socket A systems are numbered. The platform will also continue to see support in the way of mobile variants, but the desktop Athlon XP and Sempron chips are fading away fast. If you already own a system that uses the platform, performance is still more than acceptable in all but the most demanding of applications, but we wouldn't advise anyone looking for a new system to use socket A.
If our guess on the clock speeds is correct, we'll actually see the new chips launching with clock speeds as low as 1.2 GHz. That seems awfully low, and the parts will have a very short lifespan given the EOL looming just a few quarters after the launch. Power requirements would be very low at those speeds, however, making them an interesting prospect for mobile and embedded devices. Whether the low initial clock speeds are just AMD being cautious with a new design or if they're protecting the higher end markets is difficult to say - it's probably a little of both. The socket 939 Sempron parts will most likely start at 1.8 GHz and scale up from there in 200 MHz increments, so it looks to be more of a customer (i.e. OEM) demand than anything else. The lower performing socket 754 parts will take over the vacated positions of socket A Semprons, and that will let AMD continue to cater to the value conscious consumer without cannibalizing sales of the performance parts.
|AMD Server/Workstation Roadmap|
|Processor||Clock Speed||Socket||Launch Date||End of Line|
|Opteron x50||2.4 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 940||Now|
|Opteron x48||2.2 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 940||Now|
|Opteron x46||2.0 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 940||Now|
|Opteron x44||1.8 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 940||Now|
|Opteron x42||1.6 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 940||Now|
|Opteron x40||1.4 GHz 1MB L2||Socket 940||Now|
We don't have any new additions for the Opteron lineup yet, although the Venus, Troy, and Athens parts are supposed to be in the works. These are the server variants of the San Diego Athlon FX part. They should come with 1 MB L2 cache and SSE3 support and will be fabbed on the new 90 nm SOI process - strained silicon may also be used, although that isn't entirely clear. Rumors say that the x52 parts may arrive as early as Q1 2005, with clock speeds matching the 2.6 GHz of the FX-55. However, AMD may simply choose to skip these parts and head straight to their dual core models.
Speaking of dual core, Denmark, Italy, Egypt, and Toledo chips are also on the horizon for 2005, and the latest roadmap outlines AMD's plans for the introduction of these processors. Scheduled to arrive in the performance segment in the middle of 2005, dual core will initially benefit server and workstation applications the most. AMD even acknowledges this with the statement that gaming will be "best served with a maximum frequency, single core solution until 2006." The first half of 2005 will see the model numbering finalized and the sample and demonstration of dual core processors and platforms will begin in earnest. Planned clock speeds remain unknown for the time being.
The EOL for the Opteron processors remains blank, and this is what you would expect for any processor competing for the enterprise server market. Typically, such chips will be manufactured as long as there is a demand for them from the server manufacturers. There are also lower voltage versions of the earlier x40 chips available, which can be useful in blade servers. These chips might be around for years to come, although likely in smaller quantities as demand decreases.
Returning to an earlier subject, while current Athlon 64 processors do not seem to benefit much from increased memory bandwidth, that could change once we shift to dual core processors. The industry will eventually move to fully embrace DDR2 memory, just like the eventual shift from SDRAM to DDR (and RDRAM) several years back. If we are going to see DDR2 support from AMD any time soon, a separate revision of their dual core offerings would seem to make a lot of sense. That's just speculation on our part, but by 2006 we should see DDR2 prices drop to DDR levels and possibly even lower, and we should also see a shift towards the use of 1 GB and 2 GB DIMMs. That would be a good time for AMD to transition to a new CPU and RAM platform, we think.
Final ThoughtsIf we take a look at the bigger picture, what we see for 2005 is that things will remain largely static with a few notable exceptions. Socket A is going to disappear, which comes as little surprise. Socket 754 becomes the new value platform and socket 939 fills in as the mainstream and performance platform - and even adds a couple of value options later in the year. Meanwhile, socket 940 will continue as the platform for workstations and servers. The notable exceptions are that we'll see the introduction of dual core processors, and we'll also see a shift to the 90 nm SOI process for AMD. The maximum clock speed of any single chip planned for 2005 appears to be 2.8 GHz at present, although there is a slight chance that we could see a 3.0 GHz chip at the end of the year. What this means is that those of you that went out and splurged on an FX-55 are going to be very close to the maximum performance available for games for the next year.
Of course, things may always change as the months roll by. Intel is certainly not sitting idle, watching AMD increase market share and performance. We'll take a look at the Intel side of things in the near future, and if Intel can execute properly on several key items, we might actually see AMD forced to accelerate the launch of faster processors. With initial overclocking of the FX-55 on 130 nm SOI with strained silicon reaching roughly 3.0 GHz, AMD may actually have more of a performance cushion than ever before. Fierce competition between AMD and Intel is almost certain to muck with these "best laid plans."