AMD, the one company in a position to give Intel a run for its money, has seen just how hard it is to keep up. Ever since Intel woke up from its Netburst slumber, the mostly two-man CPU market has been dominated by Intel and its Core 2 architecture, and that doesn't look to change any time soon. Is there room for another contender?
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Computing Technology are talking about a new microprocessor they hope will make major headway in China by 2010. Backed by government funding, the chip was developed by more than 200 researchers.
"Twenty years ago in China, we didn't support R&D for microprocessors," said Zhiewi Xu, deputy director of ICT. "The decision makers and IT community have come to realize that CPUs are important."
China knows its getting a late start, but this isn't brand new territory for ICT. The group first began designing a single-core chip back in 2001, with Godson-1, China's first general purpose CPU, making a debut one year later. Now in its third iteration, engineers have added 200 additional instructions to Godson-3 to simulate a x86 chip, which will allow it to run more software than either of its predecessors.
It's worth noting that China's goal with the new processor isn't to take down Intel, a Herculean task by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, Tom Halfhill, an analyst at research firm In-Stat and Maximum PC magazine columnist, points out that "China wants to be independent. They don't want to be dependent on outside countries for critical technologies like microprocessors, which are, nowadays, a fundamental commodity."
On September 15th, Intel is expected to unveil its Xeon 7400 series Dunnington processor. What makes the server chip so special is it will be the first six-core processor, and likely the last Penryn to make a debut before the Nehalem microarchitecture takes over starting with the Core i7.
In another first, Dunnington will be the first Intel chip to sport a monolithic design, meaning all six cores will come on one slice of silicon. By contrast, the Core 2 Quad and four-core Xeon processors to date integrate two dual-core chips in a single package.
In addition to having six cores, the server market hopes to get big performance gains from the large 16MB of shared L3 cache. According to Intel senior vice president Pat Gelsinger, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell will have product announcements related to the Xeon 7400 series in September.
For the AMD faithful not quite ready to step up to quad-core processing, AMD this week will start adding to its triple-core lineup. The new processors are based on AMD's Toliman core.
Phenom X3 8750 (2.5GHz, 95W)
Phenom X3 8550 (2.2GHz, 95W)
Phenom X3 8450e (2.1GHz, 65W)
Note the 'e' designation in the last processor, which will represent AMD's new lower wattage CPUs. The X3 8450e will be the first 65W tri-core out of the gates, followed by the Phenom X3 8250e (1.9GHz, 65W).
Astute readers might also notice that the Phenom X3 8750 is incorrectly clocked at 2.5GHz instead of 2.4GHz. That's not a typo, and according to TomsHardware, AMD plans to bump up the clockspeed by 100MHz. Not only that, but THW says the flagship tri-core CPU will sport an unlocked multiplier. Oddly enough, the site also reports AMD will release a Phenom X3 8850 clocked at 2.5GHz this October, with an unlocked version to follow in December. Go figure.
Intel fans be polite and stifle those snickers, but at the Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany, members of AwardFabrik.de managed to breach 4GHz on an AMD Phenom 9950 processor using liquid nitrogen cooling. Not without controversy, the feat failed to pass CPU-Z's validation.
Running at precisely 3952MHz, the team recorded a 19.954 second SuperPi 1M time, setting a new record for AMD processors. Other hardware used in the endeavor included a Foxconn A79-S motherboard and an OCZ 1KW power supply.
On a related side note, SuperPi may find itself being replaced as processor technology moves forward. While the world record for AMD CPUs now sits at just under 20 seconds, the record for an Intel processor is 7.14 seconds using an E8600 overclocked to 6376MHz, leaving little headroom for future record breaking attempts.
Some rumors just refuse to die, and one that refuses to stay buried is that Nvidia might be looking to enter the CPU market. On the surface, such a move would seem to make sense, as both AMD and Intel offer integrated CPU and GPU platforms. Speculation that Nvidia might develop a platform of its own has been particularly strong the past few months, and chairman Jen-Hsun Huang, a co-found of the company, only fueled the fire at his press conference on the opening day of NVISION, saying "we believe in x86...we believe in heterogeneous computing."
But while Huang has been hesitant to stomp on the rumor outright, Chris Malachowsky, another co-founder and senior vice president, went on the record with PC Pro as strongly denying the graphics chip maker would make such a move.
"That's not our business," Malachowsky said. "It's not our business to build a CPU. We're a visual computing company, and I think the reason we've survived the other 35 companies who were making graphics at the start is that we've stayed focused."
Malachowsky also pointed out Intel's marketshare dominance and financial strength in the CPU market as reasons why the Nvidia would be wise to steer clear.
Do you believe Malachowsky, or do you think the company will have a change of heart once Intel's Larrabee and AMD's Fusion start shipping?
This means that the Asus Eee PC 2G, 4G, 900, 900A, 904HD and 1000HD models are going to feature Celeron M processors. However, it needs to be mentioned that some of the above models already employ Celeron processors. By using the cheaper Celeron M processors Asus also intends to keep costs low. According to PC World, Intel expects to catch up with demand by Q3 2008.
Do you subscribe to Maximum PC magazine? If so, turn to page 11 in the recently released October issue (everyone else scroll down to the 2-free trial issuesl order form, or jump straight to the subscription page). In the sidebar, Tom Halfhill discusses how AMD isn't too big to fail, and should they fall, it would leave Intel as the sole provider of x86 chips to the high end consumer market. Even staunch Intel fans can recognize this to be a bad thing, and as Halfhill points out, "AMD's demise would [overnight] create a monopoly that's almost impossible for another company to break." Or would it?
According to one of the hotter rumors making the rounds on the web, Nvidia might be doing more than just looking to get into the x86 market, they might already be working on it. Preposterous? Maybe not. Few would consider Intel's and Nvidia's relationship to be a warm and fuzzy one, and as the divide between GPUs and CPUs look to close, it's at least within the realm of possibility that Nvidia could be hashing out a x86 chip.
Intel adds a few processors and drops a few prices this month in it’s CPU line up. There doesn’t appear to be any shakeups from Intel’s expected plans.
Intel's Core 2 Extreme Quad Core line remains unchanged, but in the standard line, the Q9650 joins the line up at the top, while the Q9550 drops 40% from $530 to the Q9450 previous level of $316. The Q9400 is also new, and enters at the same price as the Q9300 and Q6700 (a 65nm process CPU) at $266.
The only other prices changes were in the Xeon line, with the new X3370 coming out and the X3360 dropping 40% to $316.
All prices are in 1000 tray units.
We will certainly see more changes when Intel ships Bloomfield sometime in Q4.
At yesterday’s Intel Developer Forum keynote, Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group discussed new features of the company's next-generation processor family including a new turbo mode. This turbo mode shifts the processor into a higher gear for ‘mind-blowing performance’ without a heat penalty.
On Nehalem based CPUs, Intel has introduced a technology that it calls ‘power gating’. Basically, when one or more of the cores on a Nehalem chip are not in use and powered down, the processor can divert power to the cores that are running by increasing their voltage and clockspeed.
"Our engineers have put together an incredible processing family here that will include a tremendous amount of new processor features all centered on delivering faster computer performance and terrific energy efficiency," Gelsinger said.
This next-generation Core microarchitecture features Intel Hyper-Threading Technology delivering up to 8-threaded performance capability on 4 cores in the initial versions. Nehalem is predicted to offer more cores in future versions. It also contains the much vaunted new QuickPath Interconnect. QuickPath is a technology that connects processors, chipsets and memory together, and delivers up to three times the memory bandwidth of previous generation processors.
It is no wonder that when Gordon Mah Ung did his sneak peek of Nehalem, it was so impressive. I want mine yesterday, please.
Tom’s Hardware reports that IBM and its chip development partners (which includes AMD), revealed that they beat Intel in creating the first functional 22 nm SRAM cell. Unfortunately 22nm processors are still 3 years out. This will put the pressure on Intel to make sure it keeps its manufacturing lead. Intel presented its first 32 nm SRAM cell wafer last September and is not expected to show 22 nm SRAM cells for another year.
While for the foreseeable future it seems likely that Intel will remain on top in CPU performance, this announcement means that we could be looking at a shakeup within three years unless Intel starts cranking away in research. We can certainly hope for things to heat up in the processor wars again. We don’t want Intel to become complacent about it’s position in the market.