Six-core Phenom IIs might appear next year

AMD pulled off an impressive engineering feat by delivering six-core Opteron processors with the same power envelopes as their quad-core brethren. In fact, earlier this week, the company added six-core Opterons with slim 40W ACP ratings to its lineup. But what about the desktop side of things? AMD has so far stayed mum about the possibility of six-core Phenom IIs.

Well, X-bit labs now quotes "sources familiar with the company's plans" who claim a six-core desktop processor code-named Thuban will materialize in the third quarter of next year. Reportedly, Thuban will fit into existing Socket AM3 motherboards, will support DDR3-1333 memory, and may well carry Phenom II branding (Phenom II X6, anyone?).

Intel, too, has a six-core desktop processor in the works: Gulftown, which should have six 32nm cores and 12 threads. Gulftown processors will slip in the same LGA1366 sockets as current Core i7 CPUs, and they should become available some time next year—X-bit labs and other sources all point to the second quarter of 2010.

X-bit labs raises an interesting question, though. Why would AMD wait more than a year after the six-core Istanbul Opteron launch before releasing an equivalent desktop product? AMD's server platform roadmap reveals a likely answer. The Istanbul design only supports DDR2-800 memory, because AMD has kept the same Socket F platform on the server side since the dual-core days. However, it will release new platforms and new, DDR3-supporting Opterons next year. If Thuban exists, it could be a derivative of not Istanbul, but Lisbon, AMD's next-gen six-core offering.

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