Final Words

When Intel launched its first Core 2 based microprocessors, the performance improvement was beyond revolutionary. It was the biggest single performance improvement we had seen from a new microprocessor in several years at that point. A large part of Core 2's success was its architecture, but you cannot ignore that it couldn't have come at a better time for Intel.

All Conroe, Merom and Woodcrest had to do was outperform Intel's aging and misguided NetBurst based Pentium 4 processors. Doing so proved quite easy for AMD, which had been doing just that pretty much since the 2000 launch of the processors. With no competition from within Intel, AMD wasn't really doing that much better. While the K8 was a strong architecture, it was getting old. Without any serious performance enhancing architectural updates since its introduction back in 2003, AMD left Intel with a stationary target to aim for. With each successive iteration of the Pentium M architecture, Intel came closer and closer to developing its own Athlon 64 killer, eventually culminating in the release of such a product - the Core 2 Duo.

It wasn't some mystical force of microprocessor design prowess that allowed Intel to pull ahead last year; it was a good architecture and excellent timing. Ironically enough, it was the same two elements that orchestrated much of the success of AMD's K7 and K8 architectures; they were both good designs released at times when the competition was at its worst.

In terms of actual product releases, the first incarnation of AMD's new architecture will be found in the next-generation Opteron due out at the middle of this year. AMD will initially launch at speeds ranging from 2.1GHz to 2.3GHz, but by the end of this year you can expect higher clock speeds. On the desktop, AMD's Agena core will be a Barcelona equivalent shipping at between 2.7 - 2.9GHz. Kuma will be a dual-core variant of Agena shipping in the 2.0 - 2.9GHz range.

Barcelona will be a success for AMD; the long awaited architectural update to K8 should yield significant performance improvements, especially in current areas of weakness for the K8 (e.g. video encoding). Our review of the Athlon 64 X2 6000+ showed that with aggressive pricing, AMD could come close to offering something competitive to Intel. At current prices, we suspect that Barcelona would be enough to close the gap between AMD and Intel. Chances are that we won't see bargain basement prices on AMD's new cores, but we'd expect that AMD would have to maintain a competitive market.

The real catch here is what happens after Barcelona; as we mentioned before, Intel's current successes were born out of steady but regular evolution of a good starting architecture. With yearly updates to the Pentium M, Intel achieved a snowball effect that proved difficult to stop. It would seem that a similar approach by AMD would be necessary to avoid sticky situations like the one it finds itself in today.

Virtually Powerful Improvements
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  • Amiteriver - Tuesday, March 27, 2007 - link

    Sounds groooovy
    Now lets just hope they have something good to plug it into.
    Reply
  • trisweb2 - Friday, March 16, 2007 - link

    I just want to say how refreshing it is to read an article written by Anand. He is a master of the English language; he perfectly communicates and explains every technical detail and I come away with a better understanding of whatever he's talking about.

    Thank you, Anand, for being a good writer!
    Reply
  • MrWizard6600 - Thursday, March 22, 2007 - link

    I Agree, Outstanding.

    No other site I know of gives nearly as many in depth details, and while ill admit my knowlage of some of the terms is sketchy, I got through that one with a good understanding.

    Sounds like AMD has something to fight Core 2 against.

    I do have one criticism:
    I would have loved to have heard what Intels equivilent to all of AMDs technologies would be, mind you this criticism corrects it self toward the end of the artical.
    Reply
  • stance - Monday, March 5, 2007 - link

    Remember AMD's old president and CEO Jerry Sanders with comments
    like "We will see what we see" and "More bang for your buck" I
    cannot wait to see duel socket motherboards with two four core
    Barcelona's working their magic. reminds me of Carol shelby
    when he brought the Cobra out for road test. exciting is not
    the word, jaw droping performance? Don't take Richard's Statements
    lightly
    Reply
  • lordsnow - Sunday, March 4, 2007 - link

    Does anyone have any idea how compatible the "Barcelona" CPU will be with current motherboards? When it comes out, does it need a new n-phase voltage regulator, for example?

    the reason I'm asking is, I want to upgrade and with the current state of affairs was going to go for a C2D CPU. But with these Barcelona CPU's due out I may stick with AMD - get a AM2 motherboard and cheap AM2 CPU and upgrade to the Barcelona CPU at a later date. But I have to be sure that whatever motherboard I buy now will be 100% Barcelona compatible.

    Can anyone inform us about what the situation is in this regard?
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Sunday, March 4, 2007 - link

    Barcelona being the server variant will be compatible with the Socket F infrastructure, while Agena will be a Socket AM2+ processor compatible with exisiting Socket AM2 infrastructure.

    Reply
  • lordsnow - Sunday, March 4, 2007 - link

    Any ideas as to what kind of features a user will be missing by dropping a AM2+ "Agena" CPU into a AM2 socket? The enhanced Power Saving features, perhaps?
    Reply
  • chucky2 - Sunday, March 4, 2007 - link

    I asked above and non-AnandTech folks like you and I said it would...but no one from AnandTech themselves jumped right in to give an affirmative.

    I asked for links from AMD's own website confirming that Agena and Kuma would work in current AM2 motherboards, and no one posted back.

    Right now the AM2+ CPU's will work in current AM2 boards rumor is just that, a rumor...when AMD themselves confirm it, or a site such as AnandTech confirms it with AMD and reports on it, then I'll believe it.

    Until then, it's <i>probable</i> that AM2+ will work in current AM2 motherboards...if you're willing to take the risk I say go for it, else, wait until we have an official answer one way or the other.

    JMHO...

    Chuck
    Reply
  • Calin - Saturday, March 3, 2007 - link

    "Intel regained the undisputed performance crown it hadn't seen ever since the debut of AMD's Athlon 64."
    Intel in fact lost the "undisputed performance king" title during the early lifetime of the K7 architecture. The Pentium !!! was faster at some tasks and slower at others (games) than the K7. Before that, the Pentium II was better than the K6-2 (the K6-3 had better IPC than Pentium3, but was slower in MHz)
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Sunday, March 4, 2007 - link

    Intel had the undisputed performance crown again with the Athlon XP 3200+ vs the Pentium 4 3.0C/3.2C and higher processors. Reply

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