June 29, 2007 6:00 AM PDT

AMD's quad-core 'Barcelona' coming in August

Advanced Micro Devices in August will begin selling its quad-core "Barcelona" Opteron processors, models that answer Intel's current products but soon will face stiffer competition.

The first Barcelona models, formally called Quad-Core Opteron, will run at clock frequencies up to 2GHz and will be available in standard and low-power versions. Faster models, both of the standard and more power-hungry special-edition ilk, will arrive in the fourth quarter, the company said. The first servers using the chips will come in September.

"AMD has prioritized production of our low-power and standard-power products because our customers and ecosystem demand it, and we firmly believe that the introduction of our native Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor will deliver on the promise of the highest levels of performance-per-watt the industry has ever seen," Randy Allen, corporate vice president of AMD's server and workstation division, said in a statement.

AMD successfully carved a significant niche for itself in the server market with the release of the 64-bit Opteron processor family, gaining share against Intel's Xeon with better performance, lower power consumption and a faster transition to a dual-core design.

But Intel fought back in 2006. Its dual-core Xeon 5100 "Woodcrest" model fixed the performance problems midway through the year. Then, squeezing two of those silicon chips into a single electronics package gave Intel its Xeon 5300 "Clovertown" quad-core model toward the end of 2006.

AMD's Barcelona puts four cores on a single slice of silicon, an approach AMD calls "native quad-core," and the company has argued that Barcelona will outperform the Xeon 5300. The only problem: that comparison soon will become obsolete.

Intel's second-generation quad-core server processors, " Harpertown" a server member of Intel's "Penryn" family, will arrive this year, too, with the promise of better performance, lower power consumption and lower manufacturing costs by virtue of a manufacturing process with 45-nanometer features. AMD is only just now moving to a 65-nanometer process.

For decades, typical computer processors had a single processing engine, but dual-core models with two engines began arriving this decade as a way to try to improve performance without consuming inordinate amounts of power and producing corresponding amounts of waste heat. Now chipmakers have moved to quad-core and octo-core models; Sun Microsystems plans to debut its 16-core "Rock" chip in 2008.

Putting multiple cores on a chip isn't a miracle cure, though. For one thing, it's hard to adapt software for the chips--especially software for PCs.

For another, a chip with four cores consumes more power than an otherwise comparable model with two, so multicore chips typically run at lower clock frequencies to keep power consumption down. Current dual-core Opteron chips run as fast as 2.8GHz.

A faster clock frequency will let a processor execute a given task more quickly, but multiple cores will let it do more jobs at once.

Also this year, AMD plans to release a quad-core chip for PCs. It and high-end dual-core models will sport a new "Phenom" brand.

See more CNET content tagged:
AMD Opteron, quad-core, Intel Xeon, Barcelona, dual-core

5 comments

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SE = Slow Edition
Wasn't this supposed to launch at much faster speeds. What's up?
Posted by spaceboirob (2 comments )
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Not correct
Clock speed is no longer the major issue in performance. The newer CPUs are more efficient than the older chips, so they can execute more instructions in the same amount of time.
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
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I just hope I don't need a new mobo.
I already bought AM2. I will be angry if I have to buy AM2+ or AM3 or whatever just to get quad core.
I like AMD offerings, and for political reasons will never buy intel...ever. Just had enough bad experiences with their intentionally crippled celerons.
Posted by savagesteve13 (104 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And...
...you weren't aware the Celerons weren't crippled?

It's not like AMD doesn't do shady things either. Fake benchmarks,
etc. Maybe you could run Linux on an XBox or PS3? That way you
can avoid Intel and AMD. :-D
Posted by ewelch (767 comments )
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