IDF Spring 2005: Report from San Francisco

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AMD's parallel marketing event was held at suites in the Palace Hotel, just a couple blocks away from the Muscone Center. I had a brief meeting with several AMD marketing / PR staff. Their main focus, naturally, was also on Multi-core.

Last year, AMD managed to stay ahead in the multi-core race, consistently reaching significant milestones a step ahead of Intel. There was a sense at this juncture that Intel is pressuring AMD's product development schedule. While Intel promised to ship desktop dual-core processors in Q2 2005, the very next quarter, the roadmap AMD showed in San Francisco simply showed all dual-core processors slated for launch in the second half of 2005. AMD's PR personnel assured me they were working to ship dual-cores ASAP. AMD has been shipping production samples of dual-core Opteron processors to partners since January 2005.

From AMD's web site.

AMD says they will release dual-core to customers where it makes sense first:

  • Dual-core AMD Opteron™ processors planned to be available in mid-2005.
  • Client dual-core AMD Athlon™ 64 processors planned to be available 2H 2005.

A64 Dual-core needs only a BIOS Update

For desktop users considering current purchases, the single most important piece of news from AMD is that dual-core socket 939 processors will be compatible with current 939 motherboards. All that will be required is a BIOS update, which the chipset and motherboard makers would be highly motivated to release. With no change in socket, the same K8 heatsinks can be used, and there is also said to be no increase in power requirements. This means the upgrade path for purchasers of socket 939 components and systems is about as low cost as it can be: Only a CPU upgrade is needed. To quote AMD's press release,

Because AMD uses existing manufacturing processes to produce dual-core AMD64 processors, the power envelope for our dual-core processors is designed to fit into the current sockets and power infrastructures. Additionally, AMD’s compatibility eliminates the need for costly platform redesigns, which enables a more cost effective dual-core technology transition for customers. AMD’s industry-standard, dual-core processors are a natural extension of AMD64 technology with Direct Connect Architecture. Our innovative Direct Connect Architecture connects multiple processors, the memory controller and the I/O directly to the central processor unit, helping to eliminate the bottlenecks inherent in a front-side bus.

The slide below summarizes key A64 Dual-core features:

AMD's 64-bit processor for thin and light mobiles, the Turion 64, was just about to be released. The Turion 64 is AMD's answer to the successful Penium M Centrino platform. As I write, some Turion 64 details were unveiled in a press release and in product information pages on AMD's web site. There are two series, the ML (35W TDP) and the MT (25W TDP). The former currently goes up to 2.0 GHz while the latter stops at 1.8 GHz. All are 90nm cores. Full technical details are not yet available but should be forthcoming soon. All seven models are shipping now. Dual-core Turion 64s will come, but not until after server and desktop versions.

The other question that's been on many SPCR readers minds is when we will see the high efficiency 90nm core in processors other than 3000+, 3200+ and 3500+ A64s. It's answered partly by AMD's March 10 roadmap above. It would appear that the 90nm core will be in all desktop processors by the middle of this year. Hopefully, higher speed versions will retain the same high power efficiency shown by the first 90nm Winchester cores.


A major topic of interest for SPCR at IDF spring 2005 centered around power supply efficiency and overall computer electrical consumption. There seemed to be more information and development on this front at this IDF than ever before. This topic is always of interest to SPCR (as power efficiency and thermals are inextricably related to cooling and noise) and wide-ranging enough to deserve coverage on its own. Look for a new article very soon on Intel's rapidly evolving power supply design guides, the 80 Plus program by Ecos Consulting, and the EPA's proposed changes to their Energy Star program.

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