The last time we had a turn around like this was when NVIDIA launched the GeForce FX. NVIDIA gave us a weekend, Superbowl Weekend to be exact, to review its latest GPU back in 2003. History was bound to repeat itself, and this time it was AMD keeping us occupied all weekend.

We got a call earlier in the week asking if we'd be able to turn around a review of AMD's Barcelona processor for Monday if we received hardware on Saturday. Naturally we didn't decline, and as we were secretly working on a Barcelona preview already, AMD's timing was impeccable.

What we've been waiting for

AMD shipped us a pair of 2U servers a day early, we actually got them on Friday but being in Denver at CEDIA we couldn't begin testing until Saturday. Luckily, Johan had Barcelona in Europe for over a week by this point and was already hard at work on server benchmarks. I augmented Johan's numbers with some additional results on these servers, but I had other plans in mind for the Barcelona system that AMD was sending me.

We went from no Barcelona, to fist-fulls of Barcelona in one weekend

You see, we've known for a while that Barcelona was going to do well for AMD on the server side. AMD is far more competitive there than in the desktop market, mostly thanks to its Direct Connect architecture, something Intel won't be able to duplicate until the end of 2008 with Nehalem. Barcelona will improve clock-for-clock performance over Opteron and is a drop in replacement for Socket-1207 servers with nothing more than a BIOS update; the Enterprise world couldn't be happier.

Things are different on the desktop; AMD hasn't been competitive since the launch of Core 2 in the Summer of 2006 and we're very worried that even after Phenom's late-year launch, the market still won't be competitive. While that's great for consumers today, the concern is that a non-competive AMD will bring about a more complacent Intel, which we do not want. We want the hungry Intel that we've enjoyed for the past year, we want ridiculous performance and aggressive pricing, and we won't get that without an AMD that can fight.

But AMD won't tell us anything about how Phenom will perform, other than that it will be competitive with Conroe/Kentsfield. So the goal here today is to get an idea of exactly how much faster Barcelona (the same core that'll be in Phenom X4) will be compared to the Athlon 64 X2.

We'll have more Barcelona server content coming as we spend more time with the system, but be sure to check out Johan's coverage to get a good idea of how Barcelona will compete in its intended market. If you're not familiar with Barcelona/Phenom architecture, or if you're confused as to exactly what Phenom is here's some required reading before proceeding.

2.0GHz Today, 2.5GHz Tomorrow
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  • kevinkga - Friday, November 23, 2007 - link

    Interesting review but it looks like you've given the system to gamers to test. These systems seem to be built for server-class systems, where performance for stuff like encoding, gaming etc is not relevant. Instead, why not:

    1. Have a gentoo install done and bechmark against that? CFLAGS tweaking and stuff would truely reveal where this processor thrives or fails.

    2. Why not use a process intensive application or thread intensive application such as apache under loads of stress or a highly threaded application server such as websphere? In these cases latency on communication between processes or threads running on different cores is much more important than GHz performance. AMD uses hypertransport between its processor, one of the things that its got an edge comapared to intel. IPC or interthread communication for server-class benchmarks make much more sense that normal multimedia benchmarks that are used for desktops.... c'mon guys.
  • spinportal - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    So what is the going talk on Phenom vs. Peryn?
    Phenom launch is when? Late 2007? bad news
    Peryn launch is Nov 12th. Wolfdale is dual/Yorkfield is quad (without interconnects).
    Phenom is called PhenomX4 for quad-core? and PhenomX2 for dual-core?
    Will Phenom support multi-cpu motherboards or is that just Opt/Barcelona?
    Will Peryn support multi-cpu mobos or is that just Xeon/Harpertown?
    What we need is a metric for the 2.33 or 2.5 GHz releases for Phenom & Peryn .
    What is the comparison of a Athlon X2 6000+ to a Phenom X2 2 GHz in performance and price?
    Wolfdale vs. Conroe (175$US) @ 2.33 GHz ~ +5%
    PhenomX2 vs. K8 X2 3800+ (65$US) @ 2.0 GHz ~ +15%
    Conroe @ 2.66 Ghz (320$US) vs. K8 X2 6000+ (165$US) @ 3.0 Ghz ~ +18%
    (+24% vs. X2 4400+)
    Now for the pulling numbers out of a hat:
    Wolfdale @ 2.33 GHz vs. PhenomX2 @ 2.33 GHz ~ +14%
    Street Worth: 200$US vs. 100$US
    But you know AMD will need to price higher to protect its AM2 line, and Intel will put its price premium in as to not deflate Conroe.
    Est Retail: 240$US vs. 180$US
  • cocoviper - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    In light of Barcelona's "close but no cigar" performance I really think AMD should use a strategy from their own playbook from Spring/Summer of 99. K7 was looking to be a pretty good performer, but it wasn't quite there yet so AMD respun the K6-2 and K6-III's as the K6-2+ and K6-III+ (0.18 micron versions). These things were drop in replacements that were ultra cheap (both to produce and to buy), ran cool, overclocked really well and brought needed cash into AMD until they were able to stabilize the K7 and move to the Thunderbird.

    I say continue pushing hard to get Barcelona north of 3GHz, but in the mean time, have some people respin a either a cut down K8 derivitive to 65nm or a standard K8 to 45nm (only if 45nm will be up and running before Feb to March) and push it out as quick as possible. Then they can make some cash in the mainstream market from alot of inexpensive CPUs.
  • coolme - Friday, September 14, 2007 - link

    Good idea, AMD can actually be the first cpu manufacturer to sell new x86 processors in the < $100 range. With new shrinked K8s and cheap cheap single-core Barcelona. (less cache, no power improvements, and possibly off-die memory controller to aviod low yields, but cheap cheap cheap)
  • Visual - Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - link

    even a simple return of the 939 x2s would give them quite a lot of sales, i think.
    i personally would not hesitate to buy even a 6200+ x2 if they made it available and as cheap as the am2 versions now.
    also that will in no way replace my future purchase of a quadcore k10 (or two, in a 4x4 board) so they shouldn't worry about their products competing among themselves.

    i know plenty other people who refused to buy new mobos just for the sake of ddr2, and are still sticking with single-core 939s. give them the $40 3600+ x2s and 99% of them will upgrade. some will likely even go for the higher SKUs, like me.

    i know there still are occasional 939 x2s that you can buy here and there, as well as the 939 dualcore opterons. but believe me - supply is really low, making prices unreasonable compared to am2 chips, and also while they may be possible to find in the usa, uk or central europe, there are none at all available in my own country in eastern europe. i really want to find one, been looking for a long time now, and the only option i got is to import, further driving the price up - its just not worth it compared to am2 as it is.
  • 13Gigatons - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    That is very disappointing....
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    Sry to say anand, but i would advise to remove the review. If people would have a decent view on how this benchmark was done they would understand that this will be nowhere near the performance of the real phenom but it is a good indication. (and that was the whole intention why you made this review) However most only look at the benchmarks and think it will never be any faster than this.

    To my opinion you are killing a product before it is even launched and a bad name for you're site.
  • BaronMatrix - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Maybe someone should try putting these in a QFX mobo (well THE QFX mobo) and see what happens. They should OC pretty good and that would also raise the RAM clock and take away the ECC penalty.
  • eRacer - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Were any tests done to compare a single dual-core K8 Opteron versus a single quad-core K10? In previous reviews single- and dual-threaded benchmark performance was actually hurt by running dual A64 FX CPUs instead of a single A64 CPU at the same frequency.

    For example, in this review K10 was 16.2% faster than two dual-core Opterons at the same frequency in Oblivion. However, a previous Anandtech review showed that a single 3GHz A64 X2 6000+ was 17.1% faster than two 3GHz A64 FX-74 CPUs in a QuadFX system.">

    So is it possible the 2x K8 vs. 1x K10 comparison is telling us as much about the shortcomings of using dual-socket AMD systems in desktop benchmarks as it is about the strength of K10 vs. K8?
  • MadBoris - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link


    Were any tests done to compare a single dual-core K8 Opteron versus a single quad-core K10? In previous reviews single- and dual-threaded benchmark performance was actually hurt by running dual A64 FX CPUs instead of a single A64 CPU at the same frequency.

    See my post above showing some K10 to K8 comparison with single and dual thread from techreport, the K10 advantage seems pretty insignificant on single threaded or more serial based applications.
    This will not look so good for the consumer desktop sector with so many applications/games that are still serial in their nature(even if they are multi-threaded).

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