Archive for November, 2008

Advanced Micro Devices will launch its Phenom II microprocessor at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this coming January, executives at AMD’s annual analyst meeting said Thursday.
Specifically, AMD will launch the Phenom II X4 processor, part of its “Dragon” enthusiast platform, said Bob Grim, the senior manager of product marketing for AMD’s desktop group. The Phenom II X4 is also known as the “Deneb” core, which is the desktop version of the “Shanghai” processor for servers that AMD launched on Thursday.

The Dragon platform will be AMD’s platform for the enthusiast segment during 2009, replacing the “Spider” platform that launched at the end of 2007 in conjunction with the first Phenom processor.

Grim and other executives provided a few details about the Dragon and the Phenom II X4. The processor will contain 8 Mbytes of cache and connect to either DDR-2 or DDR-3 memory, AMD executives said.

The availability of cheap components is important. AMD executives said Thursday that they are refocusing AMD on the value and mainstream segments and on SMB customers, and away from the enterprise. Grim also positioned the upcoming rival Core i7 “Nehalem” processor from Intel as one that was out of touch with the marketplace.

“Expensive motherboards, expensive memory…all expectations says that the processor will be expensive as well,” Grim said. That’s partially true, and partially false: Intel has released its pricing strategy for the Core i7 in advance of the launch.

The Dragon platform, meanwhile, will combine the Phenom II with “a terascale graphics engine for breakthrough performance,” according to AMD. Graphics options will range from integrated components to “superior quad graphics”, the company said. The platform will also ship with the AMD Overdrive CPU control utility as well as its Fusion optimization tool.


A few days ago, we published an an examination the CPU landscape in 2009. In it, author Loyd Case compared the public roadmaps from both AMD and Intel, and attempted to distinguish between the two based on price and performance.

Both Intel and AMD periodically adjust their roadmaps. At the Intel Developer Forum, for example, Intel executives presented their own roadmaps, concentrating on their upcoming Nehalem processor.

AMD doesn’t hold its own developer forums, but at its analyst day Thursday the company presented a comprehensive view of its 2009 product plans. We’ve wrapped them up here, in the accompanying slideshow, as a future reference.

At this point, we don’t know the pricing of these chips, nor their relative performance. We won’t know this information until they ship, when ExtremeTech will have a crack at reviewing them.

For now, the best hint at the performance of the upcoming AMD Phenom II X4 “Deneb” desktop processor – which will launch at CES in January – is the performance estimates of AMD’s “Shanghai” microprocessor for servers. Yes, they’re AMD’s own numbers, but representatives from Dell, HP, IBM, and Sun all took the stage Thursday at AMD’s headquarters (virtually or in person) and praised the chip’s performance. That’s telling. On the other hand, Intel has invited journalists to its Nehalem launch by claiming that the Core i7 will be the fastest microprocessor on the planet.

In this slideshow, we cover AMD’s CPU roadmap, the platforms that will use those CPUs, and many more details on AMD’s mobile platforms. We’ve even tossed in roadmaps for FoundryCo, the manufacturing business AMD will spin off as part of its “asset smart” strategy.

AMD dramatically updated its desktop roadmap at its Thursday analyst meeting, revealing a top-to-bottom approach to address the market from ultraportables and netbooks to high-end entertainment PCs. Included in the update was the company’s answer to Intel’s Atom processor.

AMD plans six platforms: “Yukon”, for the netbook market, due in the first half of 2009; “Tigris” for the mainstream notebook, due in the second half of 2009; “Kodiak” for business desktops, scheduled to be released at the same time; and “Pisces”, a similar stratregy for consumer desktops, also planned for the second half of 2009.

In the near term, however, is “Maui”, due this quarter for home theater PCs, and “Dragon” for the entertainment PC category, which will be released in the first quarter of 2009.

AMD also added six new cores to its processor roadmap, extending it into 2009.

For mini-notebook and netbook enthusiasts, the key additions are “Caspian” and “Conesus”, both 45-nm cores apparently built on the same architecture as the “Shanghai” processor AMD introduced on Thursday and its desktop counterpart, Deneb, which will be launched early in 2009, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, according to a leaked roadmap.

That roadmap did not identify either Caspian or Conesus by name; speculation had been that the two would be based on the Geode processor. Randy Allen, the senior vice president of AMD’s Computation Solutions Group who identified the new cores here, did not specify whether the two new chips are indeed Geodes.

In any event, both cores mean that AMD now has an answer to the Intel Atom processor that AMD’s chief rival has used to power netbooks. Caspian and Conesus will be dual-core parts, each with an integrated DDR-2 controller. Caspian, the processor designed for ultraportable notebooks, will contain 2 Mbytes of cache; Conesus will contain just one. Conesus will also be manufactured using a BGA package, allowing it to fit within the cramped confines of netbooks.

However, the new chips aren’t specifically designed for netbooks. AMD chief executive Dirk Meyer said that since AMD had been unable to assess the total available netbook market so AMD wasn’t directly addressing it for now. “First order, we’re ignoring the netbook phenomenon, concentrating on PC notebooks above that form factor,” Meyer said.

Allen offered further clarification, stating that AMD will cede part of the netbook market to Intel, including so-called Mobile Internet Devices. Customers of the Yukon netbook market don’t want a “compromised PC experience,” Allen said. “We will deliver a full-fledged PC experience,” Allen said. “We won’t be going to the bottom where Atom is going, it won’t be to the lowest [thermal design power] where Atom is going.”

AMD’s 2009 desktop roadmap remains largely unchanged: on the high end of the desktop lies “Deneb”, a four core chip with 8MB of cache, accessing either DDR-2 or DDR-3. The mainstream desktop will be built on “Propos”, a quad-core chip with 2MB of cache, also connecting to either DDR-2 or DDR-3.

In 2010, Caspian will be replaced with “Champlain”, which will move the ultraportable notebook category into quad-core territory. Consesus, meanwhile, will be replaced with “Geneva”, still a dual-core part. Champlain will contain four cores, connect to DDR-3 memory, and include 2MB of cache. Geneva, also a BGA-based chip, will contain just two cores, but will be otherwise identical to Champlain, the roadmap indicates.

AMD also extended its roadmap into 2011, farther than the chipmaker has previously gone before. At that time, netbooks will be anchored around the “Ontario” processor, a dual-core, BGA-packaged chip that will be AMD’s first to integrate graphics functionality. Ontario will contain 1MB of cache and connect to DDR-3 memory.

At present, the 2011 roadmap also calls for notebooks and desktops to be served by a single processor: Liano, a four-core part that also contains a GPU. Sporting four cores and a 4-MB L3 cache, it too will connect to DDR-3 memory.

AMD also removed “Shrike” from the roadmap, previously the first of the so-called “Fusion” processors combining CPU and graphics capability. Allen explained that Shrike offered just modest improvements, while Liano promised “huge” improvements.

On top of AMD’s roadmap in 2011 will be “Orochi”, adding more than four cores and more than 8MB of cache. Further details were not disclosed.

By the time you read this, PC systems with Intel’s new Core i7 quad-core processor with hyperthreading should be on store shelves, or at least on the ordering page of your favorite online system manufacturer.

The new Core i7 “Nehalem” processor will formally launch at an event Monday night in San Francisco. Many of the details surrounding the new chip have already been released, including a rundown of the new Core i7s and their prices.

The Nehalem/Core i7 architecture has been extensively benchmarked. The complementary X58 chipset which will be used in motherboards tied to the Core i7, has also been reviewed.

The Core i7 improves multi-threaded performance in multimedia apps and games over the previous generation Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Extreme processors. Core i7 requires the new X58 chipset (and consequently new motherboards), since the memory controller is now built in to the CPU.

Systems from high end and mainstream PC builders will be available, including Alienware, Dell, Falcon Northwest, Gateway, iBuyPower, Overdrive PC, Polywell, PowerSpec, and Velocity Micro. Predictably, many of the first few models will be gaming rigs with the 965 Extreme Edition version of the Core i7, but the other two CPU models (920 and 940) will appear in mid-priced and high-end multimedia desktops as well.