AMD's Quad FX: Technically Quad Coreby Anand Lal Shimpi on November 30, 2006 1:16 PM EST
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AMD is going to have a very tough sell with Quad FX; although the CPUs are priced competitively, if the ASUS L1N64-SLI WS ends up just shy of the $400 mark it's a platform that is simply too expensive at no benefit to the end user. When only running one or two CPU intensive threads, Quad FX ends up being slower than an identically clocked dual core system, and when running more threads it's no faster than Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6700. But it's more expensive than the alternatives and consumes as much power as both, combined.
There is the upgrade path argument, that eventually you will be able to put a total of eight cores in this Quad FX platform, but we can't help but wonder if the market for someone who wants a non-workstation 8-core setup for desktop use is a very small one. Although to AMD's credit we were able to create a scenario where even four cores won't cut it, making a case for the need for 8-core setups in the future. But the promise of eight cores in the future doesn't do a great job of justifying the Quad FX purchase today.
For those users who won't migrate to eight cores, once AMD's new micro-architecture debuts next year with native quad-core support, this expensive Quad FX platform will be notably slower than cheaper single socket systems. Quad FX is simply a very niche product, and in the era of power efficiency and performance per watt, AMD has released the proverbial SUV of high end desktops.
AMD hopes to sell more Quad FX processors than any FX processor in the past, which to us means that either AMD sees much more opportunity in this platform than we do, or that the previous FX processors simply didn't sell very well. Either way you slice it, there's only one AMD CPU we're really interested in and we won't get it until the middle of next year. Luckily for AMD, Intel doesn't appear to be doing anything huge between now and then either, so it looks like the CPU wars will cool down for a while after a heated few months.
Prepare to revisit this discussion in less than a year's time, and next time AMD will hopefully be much better prepared, armed with a new architecture and a cooler, smaller 65nm process. Until then, there's always Quad FX but you're better off with Kentsfield.