Quad FX canceled, upgrade path unclear

When AMD introduced its Quad FX dual-socket enthusiast platform one year ago, the entire proposition was a tough sell, because Intel had a single-socket quad-core solution that combined superior performance with lower power consumption than AMD’s offering. The folks at AMD, however, played a couple of cards to sweeten the deal.

The first of those was an unequivocal statement of resolve: the dual-socket enthusiast platform, they told us, was a long-term technology direction for AMD. They drew a distinct contrast to Intel’s "V8" assemblage of vanilla workstation-class parts. Quad FX would be the beginning of a line of dual-socket products truly aimed at PC enthusiasts, with the sort of tweakable, gaming-ready hardware enthusiasts prefer.

To drive home that point, AMD played a second card: Quad FX systems would be easily upgradeable to dual quad-core processors once AMD’s next-generation CPUs became available. Users who purchased a Quad FX system now could count on an upgrade path to an eight-way system.

As we said in our review of Quad FX, we liked both the technology direction and the upgrade proposition better than the initial Quad FX implementation itself. Many folks seemed to agree, since Quad FX didn’t exactly seem to tear up the sales charts.

Naturally, in the wake of the Phenom processor’s debut, we checked with AMD about what’s next for Quad FX. Here’s what AMD’s Suzy Pruitt told us:

The short answer is that while there are still engineering resources focused on future platform offerings that build off Quad FX, the current energy and effort has gone into programs and product initiatives like “Spider” and AMD has discontinued future planning and development of its eight-core enthusiast platform at this time.

We will continue to support customers that have an existing Quad FX with DSDC and are also working on an upgrade path for those customers. While AMD is not actively promoting AMD Opteron processor as a 2P enthusiast solution, we recognized that there are enthusiasts who are looking for two-socket solutions and think an Opteron platform is well-suited to meet that demand at this time.

So AMD has dropped its enthusiast-class dual-socket technology direction. When we pressed for further details on CPU upgrade options for current owners of Quad FX systems, Pruitt said the processor "likely won’t be a Phenom-branded product," but could not give us an ETA for its arrival. We expect to have more details from AMD soon, though, and will follow up with those when we get them.

We’ll also be interested to see how this news affects the fate of Intel’s Skulltrail, a tweakable enthusiast-oriented effort based on 45nm Xeons and the Stoakley workstation platform that’s due later this year or in early 2008.

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