AMD announced Thursday that it is shipping triple-core processors, a first for the PC market. AMD also updated the quad-core Phenom lineup and reaffirmed that quad-core Opteron chips for servers will be available later in the second quarter.
The AMD Phenom X3 8400 (2.1GHz) and 8600 (2.3GHZ) triple-core processors are the first processors that use three cores. This is expected to allow AMD to target price-performance points that two- and four-core processors can't easily match. "The value proposition is simple. Three cores versus two cores. You make the choice," said Pat Moorhead, VP of Advanced Marketing at AMD. "When you've maxed out your two cores...(this is an) extra core to do background tasks," he said.
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.
When paired with the AMD 780 series chipset, the triple-core Phenom will deliver the greatest performance improvement--up to 30 percent compared to dual-core at the same clock speed--according to AMD.
Intel may respond to the mainstream segment challenge by changing its pricing equation. "Intel may go after it with a high-performance dual core or under price a quad core. A sub-mainstream quad core is most likely," said Dean McCarron, founder and Principal of Mercury Research.
AMD also announced the immediate availability of four new high-performance Phenom X4 processors with the TLB bug fix. Led by the AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition processor (which is designed to be overclocked), the CPUs will be matched with the AMD 790 series chipsets. The quad-core Phenoms are targeted at higher-end gaming segments.
Hewlett-Packard is already offering the Phenom X3 and X4and will add systems to its consumer lineup too, said Thi La, director of marketing, North America Consumer Computing, HP, in a prepared statement. Dell is also expected to offer systems.
AMD also announced an energy-efficient desktop quad-core processor, the Phenom X4 9100e that operates at a maximum of only 65-watts.
The chipmaker also said that the quad-core Opteron "Barcelona" processor will be available from computer manufacturers in the middle of the second quarter.Phenom pricing:
Phenom 9850: 2.5GHz--$235*
Phenom 9750: 2.4GHz--$215
Phenom 9750: 2.4GHz--$215
Phenom 9650: 2.3GHz--$215
Phenom 9600: 2.3GHz--$251*