What about DDR3?

We asked AMD's Phil Hester when he expects to see DDR3 make sense for the desktop, and he gave us an unusually candid answer. According to Hester, it won't be until late 2008 or early 2009 that DDR3 will make economic sense to move to. Given that Phenom will be DDR2 from the start, it looks like AMD's transition to DDR3 will be much like its transition to DDR2: it will complete well after Intel has made the move.

AMD views Intel's constant switching of memory technologies as adopting new technology for the sake of technology, while it prefers to respond directly to its customers' needs. Intel's argument has always been that it needs to make these transitions early to prepare the entire market for them. Clearly we need both approaches; we need a company to take the hit and move the market to a new memory technology so that volumes can ramp up enough to drive the price down. At the same time we need a company like AMD to give those in the know an alternative in the interim, otherwise we would all be paying a lot of money for a new memory technology that today offers no performance improvement.

If AMD moves to DDR3 in the late-2008/2009 timeframe it's unclear as to whether or not we'll need a new processor socket. AMD's current roadmap shows the second generation Phenom core (Shanghai) due out in 2008 but still on Socket-AM2+/1207+. It's quite possible that AMD will introduce another socket in late 2008 (AM3?) that will offer DDR3 support to begin its transition to the new memory technology.

Shanghai : Barcelona :: Penryn : Conroe?

AMD has quietly introduced Shanghai into its processor roadmaps, and it's the successor to the Barcelona core. Little is publicly known about Shanghai but you can expect the newer, open AMD to begin revealing details in a controlled manner; the days of a totally silent AMD are over.

Based on AMD's roadmap, Shanghai will be socket compatible with Barcelona and it is listed as an enhanced version of the Barcelona core. Given that AMD is expected to be at 45nm in the second half of 2008, we'd expect Shanghai to be to Barcelona what Penryn is to Conroe. Unfortunately, Barcelona will most likely compete with Penryn and Shanghai will go head to head with Nehalem, and we have absolutely no indication of how those battles will end up at this point.

Final Words

Today's announcement is more marketing than substance, but it brings us one step closer to what we want: Phenom performance results. Any noise from AMD at this point is better than nothing. Can you guess its next move? It may be more difficult to predict than you'd think...



View All Comments

  • kleinwl - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    I call B.S.

    Where are the new processors for 939? When I go to Newegg, they only have a few models available. This is more like support of 939 through 2006... and oh maybe you can find some more on Ebay through 2007.
  • TA152H - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    The number of people that actually upgrade their processors without upgrading their motherboard is phenonemally small (on pun intended) and the fact that AMD goes out of their way to keep these folks happy at all is shocking to me.

    I much prefer Intel's approach, since I don't at all understand the point of upgrading to a new processor without a new motherboard, since they are so cheap. The impact on the end user is statistically insignificant, although if I were a motherboard maker I'd be pretty annoyed with Intel. But, luckily for Intel, they can afford to annoy motherboard makers since they are arguably the best at making them (maybe Supermicro is as good or better) and they don't need them.

    That AMD is offering support for obsolete motherboards like AM2 that will run their processors slightly degraded shows a big commitment on their part to this small segment, or more likely to their motherboard making partners. It's a tiny, tiny market, so just be grateful they even make an effort.
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    you dont understand why you would because you either: A, buy a higher end cpu, B, wait a while/too long, C, are unimaginative and lemming like. I could put a 185 opteron in my 939 and get only slightly less performance over a C2D 6600.

    unless you spent 350+ dollars on your non oem xp pro instal disk, you will see the obvious benefit of going with a new processor vs new board.

    people dont consider anything besides their own situation in their posts.

  • TA152H - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Actually, I buy a new motherboard because ...

    A) I can afford it.
    B) CPUs outlast motherboards by a lot.
    C) The new features of new motherboards normally warrant the small incremental cost.
    D) I don't throw away the old machine if the motherboard still works, I just add another one. I'd rather give away my old machine than mutilate because I was too cheap to upgrade the motherboard. Most of the high end stuff you buy a few years ago isn't worth much.

    And, talk about someone that doesn't see anything but their situation, the market for this is extremely small. You are the one that doesn't see the bigger picture. The market doesn't ask for this, just be grateful AMD makes some effort to placate the small number of people that do rather than be angry that they don't offer a huge selection for obsolete equipment.
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    IMO, the CPU typically is outdated long before the motherboard. Whether it will physically last longer is irrelevant, unless you need a bunch of computers for reading e-mail. And how is adding a different processor mutilating a computer? I installed the first one, another would be no different.

    I typically wait long enough between upgrades (2.5-3 years) that buying a new motherboard also makes sense for me. I believe the complaint was not as much with whether or not AMD supports 939, but that they state they support it through 2007, when in fact it seems they are simply selling off the leftovers. Selling off leftovers is fine, just don't call it support.
  • NiteCloak - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Its probably short for 'Phenom'inally. As in "It runs phenominally hot!" Like all their processors.
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    um. yeah. for 6 years amd's processors had more power and half the wattage of intels. now the wattage favors intel by about a 15% lead, thats if you put 90nm am2 against 65nm c2d. put a 3600 brisbane against a low level c2d, brisbane wins price/perfomance. such comments are irritating.

  • Gul Westfale - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    as a long time AMD customer (been rolling my own for 7 years now) i think tha there are both positives and negatives here:

    - new stuff, even if it is just a rewarmed K8 core with some extra dressing, is good. AMD needs better performance and hopefully this will help put them back on top, otherwise i might have to jump ship and join the evil empire :)

    - they retain semprons and athlon X2s which shows that they will have a product in every price segment of the market. this can only help.

    - compatibility with AM2 boards is a blessing for a lot of us. thank you AMD.

    - if the y retain athlon X2 to be sold alongside similarly clocked phenom chips they must believe that the phenoms significantly outperforms the athlon X2. otherwise they would have to cut the AX2s price yet again... either way it's good for customers.


    - using two sockets yet again. it would have been simpler to use AM2+ for consumer chips and 1207 for pro chips (opterons), but noooooo.... hector has to make it complicated again.... why? seriously? i don't get it. those who have the cash and really want an 8-core could buy an opteron system, no?

    - still no performance numbers revealed...

    i think that's about it. i will bitch more when benchmarks have been released :)
  • hirschma - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    The question that everyone wants to know: when will an AMD quad proc, of any kind, be available for sale? Reply
  • TA152H - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Not everyone, I couldn't care less.

    Uses more power, requires more cooling and is more expensive than a dual-core, and I don't need it and can't use it. Why would I want it? Two processors is more than enough for the vast majority of people, maybe too much. Some people clearly will want quads, but far more will have absolutely no use for it.

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