AMD ‘4×4’ dually enthusiast platform detailed

SUNNYVALE, CA — At its Technology Analyst Day today, AMD revealed a number of things about its plans for the next couple of years. Among them, the company’s Sr. VP and CTO Phil Hester announced the creation of a new enthusiast-oriented platform for the Athlon 64 FX dubbed “4×4.” AMD had been hinting at a new move in the enthusiast space in order to counter Intel’s soon-to-be-released Conroe processors, and this is it. 4×4 will involve dual-socket, enthusiast-class motherboards and dual-core Athlon 64 FX processors, which should add up to a tweakable, overclockable, quad-core PC. Those motherboards will also have dual graphics slots and may have as many as four GPUs via schemes like NVIDIA’s quad SLI (and perhaps through something similar from ATI? Hmm.)

Alienware has pledged its support for the concept. In fact, AMD showed a video that it put together with Alienware, and much of the talk in the video was about gaming and immersion.

AMD seems to be banking on game developers taking advantage of more than two cores relatively soon—and on gamers and enthusiasts being excited about the prospect of having four cores cranking away. AMD mentioned the in-development game from CryTek, Crysis, as a probable showpiece for 4×4 systems. CryTek has put a lot of work into taking good advantage of multiple cores via multithreading, and Crysis may help persuade gamers that four CPU cores are good to have.

Another key to it all, in my view, will be the creation of high-quality motherboards with tweakable BIOSes and the like. Dual-socket PCs have typically had limited appeal among enthusiasts because of of frumpy motherboards with straightjacket BIOSes. With better motherboards, 4×4 could have some fairly immediate appeal for some folks.

More exciting down the road are the possibilities created for multi-socket 4×4 systems by AMD’s move to license coherent HyperTransport to partners, another of today’s revelations. The non-coherent version of HyperTransport is already in use around the industry as a chip-to-chip interconnect technology, but coherent HyperTransport is AMD’s own secret sauce, the means by which multiple Opterons in a system communicate. Opening up coherent HyperTransport to third parties could eventually allow for all sorts of coprocessors to plug into the second socket on a 4×4 system and not only talk to the processor in the first socket at very low latency and high speeds, but also participate directly in the CPU’s cache and memory subsystem.

AMD mentioned media and physics processors as candidates for being adapted to coherent HyperTransport. These coprocessors could plug into a CPU socket or a HyperTransport slot, known as an HTX slot, to accelerate games and other apps. The tight coupling of CPU and coprocessor could lead to mind-blowing performance in the right types of application. Of course, hanging a coprocessor off of a coherent HyperTransport link will have to make sense in order to be worth the effort. For instance, GPUs already have their own very high bandwidth local memory subsystems and might do just as well on PCI Express. Sound cards as we now know them, meanwhile, probably couldn’t take sufficient advantage of better communication with the CPU and memory.

Wild things involving coprocessors are still very much in the early planning stages. Real products are at least 18 to 24 months away, if not longer, since the intention to license coherent HyperTransport was just announced today. Also, HTX slots are not part of the requirements for the first 4×4 systems, and those systems are more than likely to have both CPU sockets populated at the outset.


The time frame for introduction of 4×4 systems is a mushy “later this year.” We’ll probably we’ll see the first systems in time for the Christmas buying season. I say “systems” intentionally because, like too many high-end PC products lately, 4×4 hardware will debut first in complete PC systems from the likes of Alienware, Voodoo PC, and Falcon Northwest. Motherboards and processors will eventually be available in the market for DIYers, but not at first. AMD points to the “added complexity” of building 4×4 systems as its reason for giving high-end system builders the first crack at 4×4 hardware. The power and cooling requirements are too great, they say, for DIYers to handle.


For the record, I’ve heard the same excuse from Shuttle for not selling its sweet HTPC designs as barebones systems and from NVIDIA for not selling quad-SLI cards to consumers. I don’t buy it. Alienware and its ilk learned most of their best tricks—water cooling, overclocking, clever component selection, case modding, fancy lights—from DIYers, for whom the added “complexity” of these extreme measures was part of the fun. Enthusiasts have already trodden the path of building dual-socket systems. Our overclocked dually Celeron 300A rigs from back in the day were fairly complex, too, but somehow we managed to succeed—and to spawn a burgeoning boutique PC industry that would now like to plant a heel on our throats. For AMD, I think going with system builders first is a way of throwing some exclusive business to some important partners; it’s also a way of keeping volumes low on parts that make for expensive inventory, for which demand is very tricky to estimate.

But I suppose that is an editorial for another day. At least 4×4 motherboards should become available eventually outside of $5K boutique PCs, if not as soon as we’d like.


If you’ve really been doing the Dew and a four-core rig with quad SLI isn’t extreme enough for you, perhaps this will wax your snowboard: 4×4 systems (and presumably DIY motherboards) will be ready for AMD’s quad-core processors when they arrive. How does eight next-gen AMD cores and four GPUs sound? Probably a lot like an Oreck XL on Metabolife—but it could give AMD a plausible claim to the overall performance crown, even in the face of Kentsfield-based quad-core Extreme Editions from Intel.

Comments closed
    • leopard
    • 14 years ago

    I’m not an AMD fan, but since my first 1.4 Tbird, I’ve built/bought nothing but AMD systems for me and my family/friends. They just offered better performance/price. I thought Conroe just might turn me to Intel, but after reading about the 4×4 platform, I just can’t stop dreaming about it. Before getting my Athlon X2, I seriously thought about twin dual Optys. I turned out that cost of the MoBo, RAM and especially the two dual-core 2xx Opterons was just rediculus. Consider the following rigs:
    AMD 4×4: 3x300Euro 19″ TFTs, 2x250Euro AM2 X2 (best thing about Conroe is that X2 prices will plummet), 1x500Euro high class video card and 1x40Euro passively cooled GFX 6200 (or similar), just to run the third monitor off (and handle Vista’s Aero). Total cost=1940Euro
    Intel Core2 Duo: 1x500Euro high quality 19-20″ TFT, 1x500Euro for a high speed Conroe, 2x500Euro for SLI/Crossfire video cards. Total cost=2000Euro.

    Will the 4×4 need a monster PSU? Sure, but so will the Conroe rig because of SLI/Crossfire. Which would you choose? If you want 100+ FPS or 16x AA, then get Conroe. However the 4×4 will allow you to game AND render video/burn/shrink DVDs on the side without breaking a sweat. I would DEFINETELY get the 4×4 because I wouldn’t mind waiting 3hours for a single/dual threaded render to finish (whereas Conroe could do it in less than 2), but I would mind sitting idle the whole time. Conroe can have the world’s SuperPI record.
    P.S. I pray that 4×4 will work with regular X2s, not just FXs. Otherwise damn you AMD!

      • DrDillyBar
      • 14 years ago

      This is why TR got to play with a Woodcrest.

        • leopard
        • 14 years ago

        Yes, twin Woodcrests would be great too.

    • Bensam123
    • 14 years ago

    Nice write up.

    So how exactly does this differ from a server motherboard with two sockets and two pci x16 slots using nForce 4 Pro?

    §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813130523<]§ It's already here, call me skeptical but locking out all but FX processers is a hell of alot less appealing then a board which supports a variety of speed grades. It just looks like a re-branding of a existing product for enthusiasts... However the idea of a co-processer plugin is a a good one. I'm suprised they don't exist yet (ever sense math co-processers disapeared). I would be more inclined to find a extremely fast way of interfacing memory with one processer. Having a gig of L4 cache wouldn't be that bad.

    • Ruiner
    • 14 years ago

    Think of all the short-lived self esteem a rig like this would buy.

    HYPE-rtransport indeed.

    • flip-mode
    • 14 years ago

    My thoughts:

    Limiting to FX series sucks. I want my Sempron MP.

    The idea of a specialized coprocessor + dual core is much more appealing to me than 4 cores.

    SLI / Crossfire still sucks. Buying one high end card is a much better value. For dudes with fat wallets though, more power to you, I ain’t a hater.

    At the end of the day, my next PC will still be low end core2 or low end X2, or perhaps even another stop-gap Sempron. I guess it depends on how much multi-threaded software is available when the time comes.

      • Krogoth
      • 14 years ago

      Where does it say that it is limited to FX series only? We do not know the exact amount of non-coherent and coherent HT links on AM2 and Socket F parts. 😉

      AMD better realize that this solution could work well for workstation and server crowd who are on a tight budget that do not need ECC, FB-DIMM.

      I just hope that the supposed FXs for this are not merely converted Opteron 22xx chips.

        • flip-mode
        • 14 years ago

        I thought it was mentioned somewhere as FX only, tho I’m very glad to be wrong.

        What’s the matter with a rebadged 2xx?

          • Krogoth
          • 14 years ago

          FYI, the new socket F Opterons go under the 21xx, 22xx, 28xx model number scheme. 😉

            • tfp
            • 14 years ago

            I believe the normal desktop cpus only have one HT link where the -[

    • Jigar
    • 14 years ago

    Why do i feel that for gaming i should not invest in pc any more…. cause they are just getting expensive …. i think PS3 would be a good choice atleast games wont be slow… or any other hassels. and best of all $600 and ur done with it for atleast 3 years no upgrading what so ever….

      • shank15217
      • 14 years ago

      you buy the system for the games. pcs have been the target of some of the most popular games of all time thast why there is a market on the pc to begin with.

        • Jigar
        • 14 years ago

        ya i like strategy games and thats the reason i have always upgraded my system….and not to forget the FPS games like DOOM 3 and quake 4 they are my favorite …. but i have given up cause i also play NFS most wanted and i like racing games which are widely available in consoles version with top notch graphics…. So what should i do now…

    • PerfectCr
    • 14 years ago

    Wow have the tables turned. Conroe will make intel the price/performance winner. Intel will be providing lower cost, higher performing chips while AMD has more expensive slower chips. Wow.

      • Krogoth
      • 14 years ago

      They might not be quite the case with the AMD’s energy efficent line of A64s which can at least compete against the Conroe in power consumption.

        • PerfectCr
        • 14 years ago

        I don’t care about power consumption. I care about speed.

          • Krogoth
          • 14 years ago

          There are fair amount of users who take it into consideration. For pure performance standpoint there is no doubt that Conroe will be king at single-threaded apps, while this 4×4 solution will be king at multi-threaded apps.

            • Shintai
            • 14 years ago

            Well..those multithreaded apps/games that can actually use the full potential of core2 aswell and need extra at core3 and 4 😛

            • Jigar
            • 14 years ago

            As i told u before they are trying to find a different market here…. its called bunch of mor@ns market who will buy this processorssss…… 😉

      • Mr Bill
      • 14 years ago

      Conroe = Celeron, Heh Heh. Have fun overclocking.

    • Flowboy
    • 14 years ago

    Latest Steam hardware survey:

    §[<http://www.steampowered.com/status/survey.html<]§ Multi-GPU Systems (5494 of 711282 Total Users (0.77% of Total) ) I guess there's a lot of SLI motherboards being sold that aren't being used for SLI at all. Makes you wonder why people just don't get the Ultra.

      • Jigar
      • 14 years ago

      They buy it… just thinking that they will once in there life time enjoy dual CARD gaming experience ….. which never happens .. 😉

      • Severus
      • 14 years ago

      That survey also says that only 0.03% of systems have 2GB of RAM., only 2316 in total out of over 700,000 users. 😛

      • firestorm02
      • 14 years ago

      wow, thoughs are really interesting results.

      Most common card is the 6600
      63% still using AGP
      0.77% using SLI or Crossfire
      51% using AMD
      91% using DVD Roms…..why the heck are there not more games on DVD i ask, I hate installing from 5 CDs

        • Bauxite
        • 14 years ago

        And it plays (and looks) fine on those systems too…unlike some other fancy games that are all flash and little substance and demand a space heater box to run at all.

        Not that I don’t have one space heater box, but keeping it up to date is a bitch on the wallet sometimes. Also trying to tell friends to check out a game they need to shell out 1k++ in upgrades to run isn’t very endearing.

        As for all games need to be on dvds…yeah its waaaaaaaaaay fucking overdue. More often than not on new releases they want to charge you 5 or 10 dollars MORE for the 1 plastic disc version versus FIVE…crock of shit. They deserve the 5-fold increase in returns from defects/broken shit for feet dragging, but we don’t.

    • FubbHead
    • 14 years ago

    That coherent HT part sounded really cool in my ears (or eyes, whatever). It seems that more and more computer parts need a more direct route to the system/processor, where the usual ports are either too slow, or suffer too high latencies to be a good option.

    • Jigar
    • 14 years ago

    Now this sounds good to me …. a overkilling machine for any application.. but it should be without FX series what so ever…. any suggestions friends

    • Fighterpilot
    • 14 years ago

    Good grief.Have we really just gotten rid of the Mhz race to now be spectators to the core race?
    I wonder how many TR users out there are often bemused by the way their killer hardware PC just loafs along most of the time rendering simple things like this webpage,a 3D game or checking their Email?
    My system is great with all I do on it and all I have is Hyper threading to handle multitasking.
    I can have BF2 running smooth,be VoIP chatting with the chopper pilot and if I had to run some other app.
    The guys with the cool Dual Core AMDs and Intels right now are probably barely breaking a sweat running all their stuff.
    Surely 2006 Dual Cores are enough?

    • Mr Bill
    • 14 years ago

    We need a Beowulf operating system that uses hypertransport links instead of nics. Beowulf would parse the sequences of instructions in application threads into packets, generating additional code to store/move/read/lock/delete dependent varaiables between the cores, allocates the packets at the OS level to the various cores, processes dependent variables as necessary, then reassembles the results. That said, tongue in cheek…

    I think this is great news. Just let it also work with the 265, 270, 275, 280, 285 CPU’s and I’ll be buying one. An OS that supports multiple simultaneous users would run just dandy on one of these multi-core wonders. Might make a very fine gaming platform.

      • zqw
      • 14 years ago

      Here you go. I think your only choice is a red case.

      §[<http://www.cray.com/products/xt3/<]§

        • Mr Bill
        • 14 years ago

        LOL. Thanks! I’ll see if I can get it at Amazon.

      • Vertigo
      • 14 years ago

      This is already out there. I believe that both InfiniBand and Myranet use HTX for their interconnects.

    • Lao Tze
    • 14 years ago

    I like it alot, imagine being able to plug in a specialty divx or mpeg encoding chip.

    As for the conroe, I don’t see why everyone is so hyped, I would rather the game stay neck and neck. Besides its only marketing now, these sly fox’s have think tanks figuring out how to fool consumers, how to fool you…

    • spworley
    • 14 years ago

    The 4×4 system will make 3D rendering geeks very very very happy indeed, since we won’t need to pay for server class hardware. Lots of cores makes us lots of happy.

      • Shintai
      • 14 years ago

      I´m quite sure a workstation class MB+opterons is cheaper than a super expensive enthutiast+++ board and FX CPUs at 1200$ a pcs.

      Even at worst case, you can get 3Ghz Woodcrest Xeons for 850$ a pop. So just there on the CPUs alone you got 700$ to move around in favour of the “old” workstation class.

        • BabelHuber
        • 14 years ago

        Shintai, you compare prices from already-available products to products which are yet to be released.

        AMD has to lower its prices once the Intel Core2-CPUs show up, except if AMD wants to commit suicide.

          • Shintai
          • 14 years ago

          I´m still sure that Opterons+workstation board will be cheaper. You know elite gamers are the dumbest people on the planet and you use it. So AMD don´t need to sell the FX series cheaper than 1200$. The rest of their CPU line, sure..but not FX.

          It´s abit like the 3.0Ghz/1333FSB Xeon 5160 at 850$ vs the X6800 2.93Ghz/1066FSB Core 2 Duo XE at 999$.

          Anyway, this reminds me of Quad SLI, a niche for a niche market. And looking at the 4×4 setup at its best, it looks like a niche to niches niche market.

          In 2007 we can all buy cheap normal singlesocket quadcores anyway 😛

            • poulpy
            • 14 years ago

            Niche market checker :
            [x] 2 x Athlon FX
            [x] quad-SLI

            I guess we can safely say it’s a really tiny tiny niche market, but again the whole point of AMD’s FX, Intel’s EE and the top end GPUs from ATI and NVIDIA are to be flagship..

            So yeah looks like flagship material to me, but I’m definitely not in that market !

            • Jigar
            • 14 years ago

            I guess this is a new market all to-gather ….. 😉 Not even high end market ,,,, this is Ultra High end where High end user will just dream to get one

            • leor
            • 14 years ago

            yeah dude, my 600 dollar motherboard and $1,000+ Opterons + expensive ass ECC Registered RAM were mad cheaper than what this is gonna be.

            this is what i’m talking about with you, stop making stuff up and stop comparing prices of unreleased products. as an enthusiast with any sense you should realize prices change every few weeks.

            • Shintai
            • 14 years ago

            600$ Motherboard?

            §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813131059<]§ Looks alot cheaper to me...but maybe you wanted another board? Expensive memory? §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820145310<]§ Doesn´t look expensive to me... But hey, you might shop another place.

            • leor
            • 14 years ago

            do you wash your hands after you post? i can’t imagine pulling so much stuff out of your ass can be sanitary. for the record, that corsair dimm is 35 bucks more expensive than an unbuffered chip, but i don’t have crap ram in my machine and i have 2 gig chips which look more like this:

            §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16820146576<]§ and this is my board: §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813151149<]§ i also have a K8N-DL system as my server, and that is the ONLY NUMA capable board under 300 dollars, and it has crap for expansion ports, i couldn't fit half the hardware i'm running into that thing. if you don't have the sense to understand that workstation and server parts are always going to be a lot more expensive than consumer level stuff, then maybe you shouldn't be talking about that either.

            • Shintai
            • 14 years ago

            I see so now its a game about what you have?

            2GB Dimms are nice, but with 6 slots…

            Nice board, but I doubt the 4×4 solutions will have SCSI and PCI-X. So i actually wanted to compare it to something that looked more like the 4×4 solution would be. But hey, anything is ok when we go for the man and not the ball 😉

            Also besides the missing extra PCI x8/16. What did the K8N-DL miss and why compared to desktops. The Tyan board you got here actually looks bad then, since there it lacks aditional PCI x1 unless thats the purpose of your extra x16 slot.

            • flip-mode
            • 14 years ago

            I gotta side with Leor here Shintai. A dual socket Opteron workstation board is just not purposed for the enthusiast / gamer market. 4×4 makes more sense, and will probably be cheaper anyway, which was your whole point to start with.

            • leor
            • 14 years ago

            for starters, it only has 1 NIC, and 1 pci-e x16 slot and 2 pci slots. how much hardware is there for 1x slots exactly?

            that’s not enough expandibility for most enthusiast rigs, never mind I’m actually using an SLI setup.

            4×4 might not be for you, it’s not for most people, ive noticed an improvement in my workflow for having 4 cores, and i’ve used 6 gig of the 8 gig of ram i have in my work.

            • poulpy
            • 14 years ago

            don’t try too hard, been there done that : it’s Shintai..

            • flip-mode
            • 14 years ago

            y[

      • vdreadz
      • 14 years ago

      Well wait to get an INTEL Kentsfield or Clovertown, the co$t would be cheaper. 1 CPU 4 Cores DUH!!!!

    • Vrock
    • 14 years ago

    How embarassing will it be when this so-called 4×4 system is spanked by a Conroe in the vast, vast majority of games that don’t make use of any multithreading?

    Try again, AMD. The “Brute Force And Ignorance” approach to performance has never been your forte. Now suddenly you’re drinking “the more is better” Kool-Aid. K8L better come soon.

      • WaltC
      • 14 years ago

      Although I think the press has made an off-the-cuff decision to state that 4×4 is AMD’s “official” answer to Conroe, I don’t believe that it is, or that AMD is characterizing it that way. Looks to me like this 4×4 initiative has been under construction at AMD for awhile now, and has little to do with any direct answer to Conroe. I think AMD is saving that for another day…;)

    • Vrock
    • 14 years ago

    Hey, I have an Oreck XL. It’s easy to move up and downstairs. 🙂

      • derFunkenstein
      • 14 years ago

      dude, and it can pick up a BOWLING BALL!

        • BiffStroganoffsky
        • 14 years ago

        So, by association, 4×4 sucks balls?

          • Usacomp2k3
          • 14 years ago

          hahahaha

    • sativa
    • 14 years ago

    AMD sounds like they are putting a bandaid on their lackadaisical approach to innovention since the A64 was released.

    I applaud Intel for taking advantage of it.

    Hopefully, once Intel is lackadaisical in THEIR lead after core 2 is released, AMD will get off their butts and release a product that kicks core 2’s ass.

    and on and on until I get the perfect processor 😉

    /awaits both intel and amd fanatics to attack me.

      • Jigar
      • 14 years ago

      Lets attack him …boys 😉

    • willyolio
    • 14 years ago

    i always thought that PCI was too slow for the PPU, which has to get data from the CPU, send it back, and is then sent to the video card to be rendered… wouldn’t a HT link actually make it useful?

      • DrDillyBar
      • 14 years ago

      agreed.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 14 years ago

    lol … too complex my arse.
    There is some great tech in there, but not really anything above and beyond what was originally expected from this HT thingy. ’bout time.
    The more cores the better IMHO, but software is totally holding back things. Vista will fix that .. more, but there is still need for the industry as a whole to address the reality of a multiprocessor windows system.
    Considering Alienware was bought by Dell for less then a day’s sales, it makes sense to me that all parties would cozyup for deployment, since AMD wants IN.
    I’d like to see those HTX’s though.
    /Mr. Wasson Rulz plug.
    But two sockets is still nothing new.

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