With Intel's 45 nm Penryn dominating three and four core Phenom offerings, chipmaker AMD is desperate to do anything it can to cut into Intel's lead. The first major change literally split the company in half, separating its manufacturing branches into a new company.
Now we're on the eve of the second major act from AMD: the launch of the Phenom II lineup codenamed Deneb (4-core) and Heka (3-core). With AMD debuting its new mobile platform this week, it looks to continue to make even more waves by announcing the first of its Phenom II processors this Thursday.
While details of this launch are currently under embargo, DailyTech received verbal confirmation from sources at AMD that the first of the Phenom II processors will be announced Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The new processors represent primarily a die shrink as AMD is finally adopting a 45 nm process a year after Intel released a 45 nm die shrink (Penryn) and a few months after Intel released its new Core i7 architecture.
Phenom II processors will feature a 3-digit naming scheme, with X4 for the four core editions and X3 branding for the three core editions. The 4-core versions will have 8xx and 9xx model numbers, while the 3-core Heka Phenom IIs will have 7xx model numbers.
The first of new processors will have a 4x512 KB L2 cache, and a 6 MB L3 cache for 8 MB of total cache. They will come tomorrow, with the release of the Phenom II X4 920 and 940, high-end socket AM2+ processors clocked at 2.8 and 3.0 GHz, respectively. The Phenom II X4 940 will feature C2 stepping. In February the lineup is planned to be fleshed out with the release of more four core processors and some three core processors, all AM3 socket designs. Among the coming models are mid-range X4 805 and X4 810, clocked at 2.5 GHz and 2.6 GHz. These models will only feature 4 MB of L3 cache, but will also feature 4x512 KB of L2 cache. Also debuting in February will be the X4 910 and X4 925, clocked at 2.6 GHz and 2.8 GHz, respectively. These models will have 6 MB of L3 cache and 3x512 KB of L2 cache.
AMD will follow with a high-end AM3 socket quad core, the Phenom II X4 945, which will land late in Q2 2009. Dual core plans are still up in the air, and new 45 nm dual cores likely will not arrive until the release of the much-delayed K10 architecture, AMD’s upcoming new architecture, which AMD says will come in late Q2 2009 or early Q3 2009.
While the launch of the Phenom II lineup represents AMD's first major launch since late 2007's Phenom launch, many question whether the new processors will be able to reverse the company's market share slide. Early benchmarks, while suspect in quality, show the Phenom II outperformed by Intel i7 processors. At high resolutions, the Phenom II may hold its own against Intel's designs due to the processing be graphics limited, but its competitiveness both in gaming and in other applications at stock speeds is in question.
Meanwhile, the folks at AMD tell DailyTech that one of the most exciting developments of the new lineup is its overclocking potential. They say that the chips, which feature unlocked multipliers overclock very well at can be expected to run in the high 3 GHz range, or even higher with custom cooling solutions. AMD claims that its chips will be significantly better overclockers than Nehalem. Claims one AMD employee, "They were cooling with liquid nitrogen and got the things up 6, 7 GHz. Crazy stuff."
Will AMD's overclocking potential save it from being overshadowed by the Intel i7's formidable out-the-box performance? Only time will tell, but for those looking to get the scoop on the future of the microprocessor wars, Thursday will be a big day.