Is AMD's triple-core Phenom no more than marketing hyperbole?

Is AMD's triple-core Phenom no more than marketing hyperbole?

Summary: Today I'm coming across a fair bit of coverage of AMD's triple-core Phenom processor - but is it anything more than marketing hyperbole?

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TOPICS: Processors
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Today I'm coming across a fair bit of coverage of AMD's triple-core Phenom processor - but is it anything more than marketing hyperbole?

AMD Phenom, codenamed TolimanWhat we know about the triple-core Phenom (codenamed "Toliman") is sketchy - it has three cores and will be out in Q1 2008.  That's it.  No pricing information.  No clock speeds.  What there is spade loads of is marketing hype.  However, when reading through AMD's info on the triple-core Phenom I did come across this interesting statement:

In addition, triple-core processors from AMD can provide significant performance advantages over similar dual-core AMD processors in key industry standard benchmarks, including SYSmark® 2007 and 3DMark™ 2006, as well as similar quad-core AMD processors in certain gaming and digital content creation scenarios.

This is easy to rationalize - AMD's current desktop processor lineup suck.  If Toliman couldn't deliver a performance advantage over AMD's existing lineup then what would be the point of releasing it.  What really matters is how it compares to Intel's lineup, and not Intel's current range, but what they have out at the time Toliman is launched.

Call me cynical, but I can't help but feel that all AMD is trying to do here is fragment the processor market and cause consumer confusion.  Most people buying PCs aren't going to know (or care) about benchmarks, they're going to assume that three cores is better than two and buy accordingly. 

Maybe AMD is onto something here though.  After all, has H.L. Mencken once said "No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."  Me, I think I'll wait until I see some real benchmarks.

Thoughts?

Topic: Processors

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  • First, AMD may not perform with...

    Intel's Core but their processors in no way suck.

    Second, what software out there today, or tomorrow, will be able to take advantage of 3 cores? Or 4 cores for that matter.
    bjbrock
    • I agree

      For the casual user and even gamer, AMD does just fine. Sure they aren't as fast as Intel at the moment but they are still quite good.
      nothingness
    • Why multi-core works even without special software

      Multiple cores can simultaneously handle multiple processes as well as multiple threads. The Kernel is a process, your anti-virus software may be a process, browser, firewall, drivers, printing etc. etc. etc. What a multi-core system gives you is a system that won't bog down when something gets really busy. For example, I can be compiling software while running a simulation and it works just fine.

      So unless ALL you do is gaming, for many of us, who are doing day to day work who may have lots of processes running (and doing something) it makes a lot of sense. I'm probably a bit atypical but not so much that my argument doesn't apply to the masses.
      DevGuy_z
      • Multi threading is also becoming

        more prevalent in gaming.
        Joeman57
    • Let's See ....

      Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003, Linux and OSX to name a few. Even with single threaded applications these OSs run different tasks on different cores.
      ShadeTree
  • Probably just quad cores with defects in 1 core

    These have got to be extra quad core processors that have a manufacturing defect in 1 core. Rather than toss the die, they just turn off the defective core and sell it as a triple core. Sounds like a good way to market and make a profit off of what would otherwise be a loss due to manufacturing defect.
    t_mohajir
    • Sure, a good way to get rid of defects, but, they might also manufacture 3

      core chips, since that would be a smaller die and cost less to manufacture, thus offering products that Intel can't match for the moment. Really a smart move by AMD, they are thinking outside of the box. Also, it might just be that for right now, a 3 core performs as well as a 4 core on a desktop, since there may be very few situations where you would use 4 processors. There is a diminishing return on adding processors on a desktop because of the lack of multi-threaded applications, though, as one poster pointed out, you still have the networking, and various background OS tasks that can take advantage of multiple cores. Three cores just might be the sweet point given the current state of applications and OSes.
      DonnieBoy
      • silly amd fanboy

        come on. would you make this argument if Intel was trying to hoodwink us and selling us 3 instead of 4 cores? The cores will all be used, no matter how many you have, as the OS and software industry catches up. I don't want to be stuck with 3 cores in late 2008 early 2009.
        fordfamily8@...
        • Let me get this right, you are arguing that three cores are not enough, and

          others are arguing it is to many and is a hoax.

          All I can say is that the sweet spot for mult-core is probably around 2-3 right now and going up all the time. But, there will still be plenty of room at the low end for 2 and 3 cores 2 years from now.

          Funny to see the weird arguments pop up here!!
          DonnieBoy
    • Look at it from the other side.

      If you crank up the clock speed one of the cores will likely fail before the others. Disable that core and rate it at the higher clock speed. Instant performance boost. No R&D. That's exactly what AMD needs right now.
      slopoke
    • Turned-off defective core

      t_mohajir:

      Agreed. I recall that back in the day of the 386 and 486 processors, Intel managed to salvage many "defective" dies by snipping the connector pin for the FP portion of the processor (that had failed a heat/temperature test) and labeling them as "386sx" or "486sx". The "good" processors received a "dx" label. And a higher price.

      And then, Intel spun and marketed the hell out of them, eventually creating an entire line of [b]intentionally[/b] brain-damaged processors for a market they (Intel) created. And now, history repeats itself.

      I will say, though, that Intel never claimed that the "sx" processors could "provide significant performance advantages", since they knew damned well that it wasn't true. I'm willing to suspend judgment on AMD's claim until it's actually tested.
      M.R. Kennedy
      • These will perform better than 2 core but not as good as 4 core. Pretty

        simple. I wonder if AMD will intentionally cripple the chips as Intel did though. With the flexibility of their architecture, it should not be to hard to lay out a 3 core part and manufacture it. It would be a smaller die. Of course they could also sell the 4 core chips with one bad core. Heck, they could conceivably come out with a 5 core.
        DonnieBoy
        • Crippled processors

          Donnie:

          "I wonder if AMD will intentionally cripple the chips as Intel did though."

          Did you actually bother to read what I wrote? Initially, the Intel 386 and 486 "sx" processors were not "intentionally" crippled. The floating point (FP) section of the processors failed a simple heat test. In order to salvage the expensive "failed" processors (which were otherwise completely functional), Intel removed the pin that fed the FP portion of the processor, and charged a lower price for it.

          It wasn't until later, after the cheaper "sx" processors became wildly popular (due to the price difference between themselves and the more expensive "dx" processors) that Intel intentionally snipped the FP connection, whether the chip was "defective" or not. There was no need to build a separate production line for the "lesser" chips.

          In fact, if you decided that you needed floating point processing power, you could purchase a separate FP chip--387 or 487, which lived in a separate socket on most system boards produced at that time.

          How difficult is this for you to understand?


          "With the flexibility of their architecture, it should not be to hard to lay out a 3 core part and manufacture it. It would be a smaller die. Of course they could also sell the 4 core chips with one bad core. Heck, they could conceivably come out with a 5 core."

          How long have you been designing microprocessors?

          If the architecture of the AMD Phenom is so "flexible", then AMD would have designed it with three cores on a smaller die in the first place. Right? At least, that's according to [b]your[/b] logic.

          The three-core Phenom [b]is[/b] (or will be, once it's released) a four-core die that has one "defective" (for whatever reason) core.

          Sheesh. Kids. Ya can't teach 'em anything these days...
          M.R. Kennedy
          • Ummm...

            I will research more when I have time, but I was under the STRONG impression that the only difference between the SX and DX lines were the inclusion of a math coprocessor.
            ivanotter
          • That was early on. The whole SX story is very complicated and

            confusing and probably not worth going through all of the gory details again.
            DonnieBoy
          • re: Ummm...

            ivanotter:

            I find that I must make corrections to some of my previous statements. Mea culpa due to brain bit decay. It's only been 15 or so years. :)

            The i386sx processor was a low-cost version of the original i386. Internally, it was a 32-bit processor but had a 16-bit external data bus and could only address 16Mb of RAM. This was done intentionally by Intel. The i386 was later renamed i386dx to "avoid confusion".

            Source:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80386#i386SX


            The i486sx processor was originally a complete i486 processor with a defective math co-processor element that had been disabled. In later production, Intel intentionally removed the math co-processor element from the die to save space and cost.

            The optional i487 math co-processor, when installed, would disable the i486sx main processor.

            Source:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80486#Models
            M.R. Kennedy
          • Thanks ^_^

            Well see I learn new things. I was only in Middle SChool back then, and my first computer was a Pionex 486DX-33 with 4MB ram (blazin fast, i tell yas :-) )
            ivanotter
          • Yes, we understand very well that Intel did not intentionally cripple the

            chips to start, it was later to meet demand, that it was cheaper and easier to just cripple a perfectly good part. Thus absorbing the consumer surplus as an economist would say.

            And, there is no reason that AMD could not manufacture BOTH 3 and 4 core chips. With the 3 core, they would get more chips from each wafer, and thus it would cost less. I kind of doubt it would be cheaper to cripple a perfectly good 4 core chip.

            As another poster noted though, if one of the cores goes south at a low clock speed, it might be best to call it a 3 core and raise the frequency.
            DonnieBoy
          • Understanding

            DonnyBoy:

            Is that the editorial or imperial "We"? ;)

            It's possible that AMD might remove a core from the Phenom, but I think that's unlikely and do not see what purpose it would serve.

            At the 45nm level, it's unlikely that AMD would be able to squeeze out very many more 3-core dies to make up for the costs of the redesign to produce them. It might, however, help to improve stability and reduce the amount of heat generated in the die itself.

            In my opinion, AMD's decision to issue a 3-core Phenom model is mainly to reduce the cost of wastage in regards to Phenom dies which have one "defective" (for whatever reason) core, so long as the rest of the die can be used in production processors. After all, reducing wastage will tend to shore up the bottom line somewhat.

            "As another poster noted though, if one of the cores goes south at a low clock speed, it might be best to call it a 3 core and raise the frequency."

            I would be rather leery of using a "factory overclocked" processor which already has one bad core.
            M.R. Kennedy
          • about the 486SX

            "In fact, if you decided that you needed floating point processing power, you could purchase a separate FP chip--387 or 487, which lived in a separate socket on most system boards produced at that time."

            I understand that the "math co-processor" for the 486SX was, in fact, a complete working 486DX CPU. When installed, the 486SX was disabled.

            clever marketing huh?
            kbaily05@...