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AMD vs Intel: The future of desktop CPUs

2008 uncovered as AMD and Intel go head-to-head

As processor-giant Intel once again goes head-to-head with underdog AMD, we take a look at their plans and identify just what they will be releasing in 2008.

Triple-core - really?

A unique and intriguing addition to AMD's CPU lineup for 2008 is its 8000 series of triple-core processors. The asymmetry of triple-core processing has apparently thrown some internet pundits off their game: AMD has been subjected to a fair amount of criticism for selling what are in essence quad-core CPUs with one core disabled or unable to function. The reality is that Intel, AMD and all chip manufacturers sell CPUs with dysfunctional or underperforming cores.

These triple-core processors are intriguing because theoretically they offer a price-performance range between dual-core and quad-core CPUs. In January, AMD will release the 2.1GHz 8400 and 2.3GHz 8600 chips. In the second quarter of 2008, expect to see faster variants, including the 2.4GHz Phenom 8700, the 2.3GHz 8650 and the 2.1GHz 8450. All of these processors will feature 1.5MB of L2 cache and 2MB of shared L3 cache. Expect clock speeds of these triple-core processors to reach 3GHz by year's end.

It's important to note that, although AMD is currently creating large waves of publicity about the Phenom quad- and triple-core CPUs, the chip manufacturer will not be abandoning its dual-core lineup at the low- and mid-range tiers of the market. In fact, it is quite likely that sometime in the second quarter of 2008 AMD will release two dual-core CPUs, model numbers 6050 and 6250. Clock speeds have yet to be confirmed, but each should have 1MB of L2 cache and a 2MB shared L3 cache. It's likely that AMD will release several more dual-core models in Q3 and Q4.

From Peruses to Fusion

One of AMD's big pushes for the first half of 2008 will be a desktop platform initiative named Peruses. The desktop equivalent of Intel's Centrino notebook platform, Peruses is a combination of a Phenom processor, an ATI graphics adaptor and a new AMD chipset.

Unfortunately, it does not appear likely that AMD will achieve a 45nm fabrication process for its CPUs until the very end of 2008, and possibly not until early 2009. This forces the company to cede economic and power consumption efficiencies to Intel for this current generation of processors.

Right now, it appears that AMD is placing a considerable amount of effort and hope in an integrated line of processors known by the code name Fusion. Scheduled for release in 2009, these CPUs will combine CPU and GPU cores on to the same piece of silicon and the same die. This collocation of the central processing and graphics processing chips differs from Intel's architecture in that the CPU and GPU cores are literally integrated at the die level.

AMD hopes this approach will provide increased performance because of faster access to shared memory and other resources. Beyond improved memory allocations and thermal/power efficiencies, which will probably benefit portable computers more than desktop PCs, it is not yet clear what advantages this new design holds.

NEXT PAGE: AMD's Griffin mobile CPU and Puma mobile platform


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