Update: Are three cores better than two? Consumers now get the chance to decide. AMD's X3 Phenom processors are available in low-cost consumer systems from Hewlett-Packard (HP), Gateway, and eMachines.
Also, on the quad-core front, AMD said Wednesday that Dell is offering five server platforms based on the AMD "Barcelona" Opteron processor.
The AMD Phenom X3 8400 (2.1GHz) and 8600 (2.3GHz) are the first mainstream x86 processors to use three cores. "The value proposition is simple. Three cores versus two cores. You make the choice," Pat Moorhead, VP of Advanced Marketing at AMD, .
The Gateway model GT5670 packs an X3 8400 processor (2.1GHz) with 2MB of L3 cache memory, 3GB (PC2-5300 DDR2) of main memory, an Nvidia GeForce 6150 SE graphics card, and a 320GB Serial ATA II hard disk drive with 8MB cache (7200 rpm). This configuration goes for $549 at Best Buy.
The HP Pavilion a6430f is eerily similar. It also comes with an X3 8400 Phenom, 3GB PC2-5300 DDR2 memory, and Nvidia GeForce 6150 SE graphics. However, instead of a 320GB hard disk drive, it doubles the capacity with a 640GB drive. This system is priced at $679. HP also offers the Pavilion a6450z series on its Web site with the X3.
The eMachines J4509 is being sold in Japan and features an X3 8400 and AMD 780G integrated graphics. With a 19-inch LCD display, it retails in Japan for just under $1,000.
The initial Phenom X3 processors will ship as the B2 "stepping" or version. The follow-on versions in the channel will be the B3, said Moorhead. The B3 version fixes the TLB bug, which AMD has said all along is an extremely rare occurrence and affects virtually no one except, possibly, very high-end customers. Any chips designated with a "50" suffix will be a processor that implements the fix in silicon.
AMD also recently announced the availability of four new Phenom X4 processors with the TLB bug fix. Led by the AMD Phenom 2.5GHz X4 9850 Black Edition processor (which is designed to be overclocked) and 2.4GHZ 9750, these CPUs will be matched with the AMD 790 series chipsets. The quad-core Phenoms are targeted at higher-end gaming segments.
In related news, AMD announced Wednesday that Dell servers using the quad-core AMD "Barcelona" Opteron processor include the PowerEdge SC1435, 2970, M605 blade server and 6950 platforms, as well as the new PowerEdge T605 tower server. Dell follows HP which already lists its ProLiant G5 servers with quad-core Opteron processors.