CPU competition continues to heat up with the introduction of blistering six-core CPUs from AMD and Intel. AMD is first to market with its Thuban processors and hopes to counter Intel’s more expensive six-core Gulftown by offering incredible processing power at an impressive price.
AM Thuban: Overview
Among things remaining the same in the AMD Thuban processor (Phenom II X6) is the socket. By staying with AM3, AMD allows users to upgrade to the hex-core processor with only a flash BIO update. The CPU continues Direct Connect Architecture and boasts Hyper-Transport with 16 GBps peak data transfer. The processor has a built-in controller for system memory (handles DDR2 and DDR3), and the Cool ‘n Quiet cooling system. The cache is the same as the Phenom X4 and is expected to remain at 6 MB (shared L3 cache), although that spec has still not been officially released. Each core is equipped with its own 512 KB of L2 cache.
One thing that is new with Thuban is processor speeds well in excess of 3 GHz. Because multiple models of Thuban are due out at the same time, buyers will have some choices available to balance speed with cost within the Thuban family.
AMD Thuban: Other Specifications
Although AMD is building Thuban on 45 nm wafers and has increased the cache and the size of the die, the fastest processors are expected to suck up to 140 watts of power. Low power versions of Thuban are expected to come out that keep power draw down to the 60 – 70 watt range. This reduction in Thermal Design Power (TDP) shows how AMD has been able to improve its existing technology as it developed Thuban.
Perhaps the biggest advance in technology AMD has incorporated into Thuban is its new Turbo CORE technology. Turbo CORE provides the ability to dynamically shut down three unused cores and restart them when they are needed. When running in Turbo CORE mode, Thuban’s first three cores will run at speeds that are 500 MHz faster.
Intel Gulftown i7-980x vs. AMD Thuban
Even though Thuban is a six-core CPU that does not mean that it is equivalent to Intel’s Gulftown. In fact, AMD is not making any pretences concerning Thuban’s performance: It just won’t stack up. Still, AMD has a strong selling point: the i7-980X from Intel is expected to debut at a price above $1,000, while pricing for Thuban is supposed start in the low $300 range. When consumers find that a whole Thuban-powered computer can be purchased for less than one Gulftown chip, AMD hopes that buyers will go with AMD.
AMD also hopes to appeal to the techno-savvy by being the first to offer a six-core product for sale. The release of Intel’s Gulftown met delays that could push power users hungry for new technology toward AMD.
Although the speed increases and AM3 compatibility are features that will keep existing AMD users in the AMD camp, its new Leo platform (Phenom II X6, 890 chipset and ATI Radeon HD 5800 graphics) is expected to offer tremendous performance increases that will make many AMD users toss their old CPUs and their motherboards.
Parrish, Kevin. “Intel’s 6-Core CPU Possibly Delayed.” Tom’s Hardware. April 20, 2010. http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Intel-Gulftown-Nehalem-CPU,7579.html (accessed May 21, 2010).
Van Winkle, William. “Thuban Uleashed: Can AMD put a hex on Intel?” CPU, May 2010: 60-63.