AMD's 4x4: Performance champ or PR stunt?

AMD's 4x4: Performance champ or PR stunt?

Summary: You know, I think that AMD could be onto something with 4x4 ...

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TOPICS: Processors
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Yesterday AMD held a demonstration session If AMD are willing to dramatically cut the price of FX CPUs then it could be onto something hererevealing more information about the upcoming 4x4 platform.  4x4 is essentially a motherboard that supports two CPUs and equipped to support CrossFire/SLI dual-GPU technology.  With two dual core CPUs installed this means four core, each with access to 2GB of dedicated memory and four GPUs.

When I first heard about 4x4 the first thing that struck me was that it was going to be expensive.  Even after the latest price cuts by AMD, a pair of FX-62s would set you back over $1,600, and that’s before you add in the motherboard or the graphics cards.  However, yesterday AMD said that it has pledged to sell pairs of CPUs suited for 4x4 in a bundle that will cost "well under $1,000".

Now this changes things quite dramatically.  Initially, given the incredibly inflated prices of Athlon 64 FX processors, I couldn't see 4x4 (or "$x$" as some wag referred to it a few weeks back) becoming anything more than a high cost, low volume PR stunt that few could afford and even fewer would buy.  However, if AMD are willing to dramatically cut the price of FX CPUs then it could be onto something here.  The power requirements are likely to be crazy but there is also potential for real performance.  Added to that, 4x4 will have two DIMM slots for each processor, which gives a 4x4 system four high-speed DDR2 channels, dramatically reducing memory bottlenecks.  There's still a cynical part of me that still thinks that this is a marketing trick to sell more CPUs and GPUs and I'll be very interested in seeing benchmark results from 4x4 systems to see what the real-world performance gains are like.

I still think the success of 4x4 is going to come down to one thing … how well AMD balance performance against cost.

Topic: Processors

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  • Maybe both

    PR stunt? Indeed!! Never mind sucking down a kilowatt of power if you can claim winning some obscure benchmark (being written as we speak). That will give AMD the ability to claim superiority at something , which is really the end game here.
    Prognosticator
    • That kind of PC ...

      ... is going to be fun to have in a hot office in summer ... ugh!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Re: That kind of PC ...

        I don't know where you live, but here, in hot Texas, offices are very cold in the summer. Employees need to break out the sweaters and jackets for summer-wear. I might welcome a PC that can replace the space heater in my office, too.
        BubbaJ
        • Then think of it ...

          ... as a bonus! :-)
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Only if...

        ...you don't mind sharing your cube with a Three Mile Island style cooling tower to keep it under control.
        Wolfie2K3
        • :-)

          Is that one per CPU or per PSU?
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • my question is

        will it warm my entire apartment in the winter? i know that apple g5 quad cores run hot and take hella power (the psu is 1000 watts), so i'm wondering what 4 high-end graphics cards and 4 high-end amd cores will take, since athlons aren't as efficient as ppc970fx chips...
        nix_hed
    • Neither

      This is an enthusiast - read gamer - release. Alienware, Falcon and some others are already gearing up for this.

      BUT! This is also an early release of the new AMD roadmap. AMD is to be releasing quad processors in 2007 - and this board is supposed to support that.

      And that release will be the big news - as it's going to be all about virtualization in the desktop environment. Well, also to not just take on Intel, but IBM and their Cell architecture...
      quietLee
  • Until software can use it, pretty much worthless.

    Don't get me wrong, I too love to see advances in the hardware side but the time lag of getting software to use it means there is no rush (on my part) to invest in a machine like this and I don't think there will be for sometime to come.

    I can't help but wonder if the folks writing apps for a multi-core machine might not decide the Cell (IBM) isn't the better CPU to do it on. I mean at some point the x86 instruction set must come to an end.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Some software already there

      Plus any multi threaded app can use it, such as server applications.
      Most games would not use it as of yet, but some have been recompiled to be multithreaded, such as quake 4. They show huge perf gains on multiproc.

      I'm certainly not betting on the cell, it's not going to do well for general machines imo.
      Joeman57
      • Serer? Yeah, maybe, desktop, not so much.

        I keep thinking the Cell is going to come into it's own because of the way MS (XBox) is backing it.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • XBOX 360 does not use the cell

          we have talked about that before ;) PS3 uses the cell.
          Joeman57
          • Sorry, IBM calls it a Cell CPU.

            You need to argue with them, not me.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Incorrect, IBM does NOT call it a Cell.

            XBOX 360

            http://www-03.ibm.com/chips/news/2005/1025_xbox.html

            The chip features a customized version of IBM's industry leading 64-bit PowerPC core. The chip includes three of these cores, each with two simultaneous threads and clock speeds greater than 3 GHz.

            PS3
            http://www-03.ibm.com/chips/news/2004/1129_cell1.html

            IBM, Sony Corporation, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (Sony Corporation and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. subsequently referred to as Sony Group) and Toshiba Corporation today unveiled, for the first time, some of the key concepts of the highly-anticipated advanced microprocessor, code-named Cell, they are jointly developing for next-generation computing applications and digital consumer electronics.

            Specifically, the companies confirmed that Cell is a multicore chip comprising a 64-bit Power processor core and multiple synergistic processor cores capable of massive floating point processing.

            IBM is not calling the xbox 360 cpu a "Cell". It's only you doing that.
            Joeman57
          • Yep

            Only the PS3 uses Cell ...
            Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • xbox processor is a variation of the G5 and Power4...DUH

          the funny part is that m$'s dev kit for the 360 was originally a powermac g5 with the same video processor the 360 has.

          if m$ is backing any processor, it's anything that is x86, since that's where the bread and butter is.
          nix_hed
      • Re: not betting on the cell

        Why will it not do well for "general machines?"
        fmcgowan
        • Just a feeling, i could easily be wrong

          It seems like it will be adopted quicker in specialized hardware.
          Joeman57
        • Here's a discussion of the cell

          Pretty detailed.

          http://www.blachford.info/computer/Cell/Cell0_v2.html

          Note that the link is not negative on the cell processor at all. As a matter of fact, it calls the cell "Revolutionary not evolutionary"

          A quote from it:
          A General Purpose Conclusion

          Cell will not magically accelerate a general purpose system, it will require considerable work to get the best out of it. It?s not even clear if anyone actually intends to build a desktop system using the Cell after Apple went off and got some ?Intel inside?.
          Joeman57
    • That reminds me of an old computer joke...

      What the difference between a DEC Alpha and a bowling ball?

      A bowling ball has more software. :D
      olePigeon