Electronic Design

Dual-Core CPUs Raise The System-Throughput Bar

High-performance servers and other high-throughput systems (such as those used by high-end gamers) can look forward to Advanced Micro Devices' and Intel's performance-boosting, dual-core processor families. In addition to their throughput capabilities, each family keeps a lid on power dissipation--95 W max for AMD's chips and 130 W for the Pentium Extreme products.

AMD will release dual-core processors in both its server-class Opteron series and its desktop-oriented Athlon families. The CPUs will be compatible with the 940-pin sockets for the single-core Opteron processors and the 939-pin sockets for the single-core Athlon 64 processors, respectively. Designers only need a motherboard BIOS upgrade to make the systems dual-core aware.

Two dual-core processor extensions will be added to the Opteron series. The "Egypt" 800 series fits four- to eight-way servers, and the "Italy" 200 series targets two-way servers and workstations (Fig. 1). Both CPU families come in 1.8-, 2.0-, and 2.2-GHz speed grades. In 1000-unit lots, the 200-series CPUs range from $851 to $1299, while the 800 series goes for $1514 to $2649 per chip. (For details, see www.amd.com/sreference.)

AMD's Athlon family will offer the dual-core 64 X2, codenamed Toledo. The company claims it improves throughput by 90% compared to a single-core CPU. Its 64-bit architecture adds even more to the throughput boost.

There will be four processor variations. The 4800+ and 4600+ both clock at 2.4 GHz and pack dual 1-Mbyte and 512-kbyte L2 caches, respectively. The 4400+ and 4200+ run at 2.2 GHz and pack dual 1-Mbyte and 512-kbyte L2 caches, respectively. They will cost $1001, $803, $581, and $537, respectively, in 1000-unit lots.

According to its dual-core roadmap, Intel is planning over 15 multicore projects that span its entire processor line. These range from the high-end Itanium2 through the high-performance Xeon family and extend to the Pentium 4 and Pentium M for desktop and portable systems.

The just-released Pentium Processor Extreme Edition 840, which clocks at 3.2 GHz, includes the company's hyperthreading capability. The forthcoming Pentium D processors, codenamed Smithfield and Presler, won't have hyperthreading (Fig. 2). In 1000-unit quantities, the 840 Extreme Edition processor costs $999. It's supported by Intel's 955X Express chip set, which costs $50 each in similar quantities.

Expect the release of the Montecito and Millington dual-core Itanium CPUs sometime this year. In 2006, Intel plans to unveil the Montvale processor, yet another dual-core Itanium. Also on tap for next year are high-end dual-core Xeon processors, codenamed Paxville and Dempsey. And for the mobile space, Intel is developing a dual-core CPU, dubbed Yonah.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Intel Corp.

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