AMD's quad-core 'Barcelona' coming in August

Faster models will arrive in the fourth quarter; first servers using the chips are due in September.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Advanced Micro Devices in August will begin selling its quad-core "Barcelona" Opteron processors, models that answer Intel's current products but soon will face stiffer competition.

The first Barcelona models, formally called Quad-Core Opteron, will run at clock frequencies up to 2GHz and will be available in standard and low-power versions. Faster models, both of the standard and more power-hungry special-edition ilk, will arrive in the fourth quarter, the company said. The first servers using the chips will come in September.

"AMD has prioritized production of our low-power and standard-power products because our customers and ecosystem demand it, and we firmly believe that the introduction of our native Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor will deliver on the promise of the highest levels of performance-per-watt the industry has ever seen," Randy Allen, corporate vice president of AMD's server and workstation division, said in a statement.

AMD successfully carved a significant niche for itself in the server market with the release of the 64-bit Opteron processor family, gaining share against Intel's Xeon with better performance, lower power consumption and a faster transition to a dual-core design.

But Intel fought back in 2006. Its dual-core Xeon 5100 "Woodcrest" model fixed the performance problems midway through the year. Then, squeezing two of those silicon chips into a single electronics package gave Intel its Xeon 5300 "Clovertown" quad-core model toward the end of 2006.

AMD's Barcelona puts four cores on a single slice of silicon, an approach AMD calls "native quad-core," and the company has argued that Barcelona will outperform the Xeon 5300. The only problem: that comparison soon will become obsolete.

Intel's second-generation quad-core server processors, "Harpertown" a server member of Intel's "Penryn" family, will arrive this year, too, with the promise of better performance, lower power consumption and lower manufacturing costs by virtue of a manufacturing process with 45-nanometer features. AMD is only just now moving to a 65-nanometer process.

For decades, typical computer processors had a single processing engine, but dual-core models with two engines began arriving this decade as a way to try to improve performance without consuming inordinate amounts of power and producing corresponding amounts of waste heat. Now chipmakers have moved to quad-core and octo-core models; Sun Microsystems plans to debut its 16-core "Rock" chip in 2008.

Putting multiple cores on a chip isn't a miracle cure, though. For one thing, it's hard to adapt software for the chips--especially software for PCs.

For another, a chip with four cores consumes more power than an otherwise comparable model with two, so multicore chips typically run at lower clock frequencies to keep power consumption down. Current dual-core Opteron chips run as fast as 2.8GHz.

A faster clock frequency will let a processor execute a given task more quickly, but multiple cores will let it do more jobs at once.

Also this year, AMD plans to release a quad-core chip for PCs. It and high-end dual-core models will sport a new "Phenom" brand.