AMD reveals Barcelona performance, future plans

AMD held a four-hour presentation for analysts today during which it revealed a fair amount of new information about its upcoming Barcelona and Phenom processors as well as their successors. To begin with, AMD stated that production wafers of Barcelona are out and yields are "ahead of plan." The new Opterons are still on track to roll out later this quarter, just as AMD said back in June. That update isn't exactly earth-shaking, but AMD had much more in store, including a new sneak peak at Barcelona performance. AMD said a 2GHz Barcelona gets a 28.7% higher score than an Intel Xeon E5345 at 2.33GHz in SPECfp_rate2006.

AMD still has no intention of releasing Barcelona chips clocked higher than 2GHz before the fourth quarter of this year. The company says the combination of low-power Barcelonas clocked at up to 1.9GHz and regular Barcelonas at up to 2GHz should take care of 94% of the market at launch, and that it will address the remaining 6% of shipments with Barcelonas running at "2.3GHz and above" in the fourth quarter. To convince those doubting its ability to scale to higher clock speeds, AMD showed off a desktop system powered by a quad-core chip (presumably of the Phenom type) running at a cool 3GHz and outfitted with three Radeon HD 2900 cards. The machine ran a Call of Juarez demo loop, although unfortunately, no benchmark numbers were provided.

Source: AMD.

Once Barcelona finally rolls out, AMD has no intention of twiddling its thumbs. That sentiment was exemplified by a roadmap the company showed depicting its server and workstation core launches for the next year and a half. Those upcoming cores will include Budapest, which will power future quad-core Socket AM2 Opterons, as well as Shanghai, Barcelona's 45nm offspring. Budapest isn't too exciting (think a server/workstation variant of Phenom) but Shanghai definitely is. The chip should be AMD's first 45nm endeavor, and it's still scheduled for mid-2008. Compared to Barcelona, it will pack 6MB of L3 cache and "continued [instruction per clock] improvements," but it will fit into the same Socket F motherboards as existing dual-core Opterons.

Source: AMD.

One apparent side-effect of Socket F's longevity is that both Barcelona and Shanghai will have three HyperTransport 1.0 links. We'll have to wait until 2009 and AMD's "Sandtiger" 45nm octal-core platform before HyperTransport 3.0 makes it into the multi-socket server space. Interestingly, AMD says Sandtiger will include new AMD-built chipsets, marking the company's return to the server/workstation chipset space.

On the desktop front, AMD had a couple of roadmaps to share for upcoming performance and mainstream Athlon/Phenom platforms.

Source: AMD.

Unlike Barcelona and Shanghai, Phenom chips will enjoy HyperTransport 3.0 support from the start courtesy of the new "AM2+" socket and AMD's RD700-series chipsets. (Other chipset makers are bound to produce HT3.0-compatible offerings, of course.) AMD also has 45nm Phenoms with 6MB L3 caches planned for 2008. Those processors will be accompanied by new R700-series graphics processors, which will have "DirectX 10+" support and will be based on 55nm process technology. It looks like support for DDR3 memory—be it on the desktop or in the server/workstation markets—isn't part of AMD's plans for 2008, however.

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