Intel makes performance claims, AMD rebuffs them

Intel's prediction of a 20-percent lead in chip performance over AMD isn't sitting well with the smaller chipmaker.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
3 min read
A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

As might be expected, Advanced Micro Devices doesn't think much of Intel's performance claims for its upcoming Conroe and Merom products.

"It's driven by the fact that they can't talk about their current products, because everybody knows their current products aren't very good," said Henri Richard, AMD's chief sales and marketing officer, in an interview with CNET News.com late Friday.

Richard was responding to a prediction from an Intel executive that the company's chips scheduled for the second half of the year will deliver a 20 percent improvement in performance over comparable AMD products scheduled for release in the same time frame.

Conroe and Merom are the first desktop and notebook processors to use Intel's next-generation microarchitecture, a new design philosophy that extends the Core Duo chip's emphasis on reduced power consumption. That design is almost a complete reversal from the high-speed Netburst architecture used to build Intel's Pentium D and Xeon processors. Netburst is on its way out, as it has excessive power consumption.

NGMA chips can process more instructions per clock cycle than their predecessors, take advantage of larger amounts of cache memory, and route instructions more intelligently through the central processing unit (CPU). This will allow Intel to retake the performance lead currently held by the AMD64 architecture without resorting to techonology similar to AMD's integrated memory controller or point-to-point interconnects, said Mooly Eden, general manager of Intel's mobile platforms group.

Both executives are, of course, making claims about products that can't be verified, as their introduction is months away. Analysts and third-party reviewers are expected to deliver the final word on which processor design stays in front in the second half of 2006. AMD plans to reveal details about upcoming products at June's Computex trade show in Taiwan, Richard said. Intel will likewise share NGMA details at the Intel Developer Forum next week.

It's clear that NGMA chips will be much better than Netburst-based chips, AMD's Richard said. But he's not convinced that the improvements will be enough to overcome what he called a 15 percent performance advantage enjoyed by AMD's chips today.

AMD will introduce support for DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory along with a new socket technology called AM2 in the second half of the year. That will allow system builders to drop quad-core processors into the same chipsets for upcoming dual-core chips, he said.

The integrated memory controller is still AMD's greatest advantage, Richard said. Integrating the memory controller allows that key link between the processor and memory to run at the speed of the chip, moving data into the processor more quickly than the front-side bus used by Intel's chips. Analysts and reviewers have consistently given an edge to AMD because of this feature, which Intel is not expected to duplicate anytime soon.

"If you were to ask anybody at Intel with intellectual honesty, if they had a magic wand, would they go ahead and (integrate the controller)? They'd say 'yes,'" Richard said.

Intel executives, such as Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner, have talked about pursuing integrated memory controllers for chips toward the end of the decade, but the company has not shared any specific plans.

Correction: This story incorrectly described AMD's upcoming AM2 technology. It is a new socket.