Intel unleashes Quad Core at IDF Fall 2006

For now, even the AMD four socket advantage in the Server market has melted away since it's about half the price to build a two socket quad core server compared to a four socket dual core AMD server. AMD will come out with their quad core CPUs that come on a single die in the middle of 2007 promising to consume no more power than the existing dual core processors which should be slightly lower than Intel's current quad core CPUs. The problem is that Intel is not standing still and Intel will be releasing 50 watt quad core processors in the first quarter of 2007 before AMD even begins to ship their first quad core CPU.

At the fall 2006 IDF (Intel Developer's Conference), Intel widened its lead in the Server and Desktop market by trotting out four quad core server processors and a 2.66 GHz quad core "Extreme Edition" desktop processor.  But no one told these real-world applications that the Intel quad core chips are "fake"These quad core chips will be available in November only 4 months after Intel shipped its first Core 2 based product.

The server parts will be 1.6, 1.86, 2.33, and 2.66 GHz.  The two lower-end parts will operate with two 1066 MHz memory channels and the two higher end parts will operate with two 1333 MHz memory channels.  All quad core server chips have a TDP (Thermal Design Power) of 80 watts except for the 2.66 GHz part which will operate at 120 watts.  AMD's latest "Socket F" dual core Opteron processors are rated at 95 watt TDP for most of the product line and 119 watt TDP for the highest end 2.8 GHz part.  Considering the fact that we're comparing a quad core Intel CPU to a dual core AMD CPU, it's a massive lead in power consumption for Intel because you would need twice as many AMD CPUs to match the same number of cores which would nearly double the power requirement (and price) on AMD.

Note that AMD servers use registered DIMMs while Intel Servers uses more power hungry FB-DIMMs which require an extra 4 to 5 watts per DIMM.  This would mean that an Intel server with four 2 GB FB-DIMMs will use an extra 18 watts for the memory and a server with eight 2 GB FB-DIMMS will use an extra 36 watts of power for the memory.   This difference in memory architecture would cut in to Intel's lead depending on how many DIMMs are used but Intel there is no doubt that Intel's lead is solid.

The 2.66 GHz quad core extreme desktop processor has a TDP of 130 watts.  While 130 watts is on the high side, it's the first quad core processor that is still lower power than the old Intel Pentium 4 "Netburst" CPUs and only slightly more than a 125 watt 2.8 GHz AMD FX-62 dual core processor.  Even more alarming for AMD is the fact that on a clock for clock basis, a single 2.4 GHz Core 2 core is faster than a single 2.8 GHz Athlon core.  AMD is touting its yet-to-be-released "4x4" dual-socket dual-core desktop product as a possible Core 2 Duo killer but that could potentially ramp the TDP envelop to around 200 watts for both sockets not to mention a large premium on the cost of a dual-socket motherboard.  The more expensive and power hungry AMD 4x4 solution probably won't come close to the new quad core Intel CPUs unless there is a radical boost in the architecture of AMD CPUs.

There are some in the industry along with AMD that are labeling these new Intel quad core CPUs as "fake" quad cores because they use two dies on a single CPU package.  Unfortunately for AMD, no one told these real-world applications that the Intel quad core chips are "fake" because they show almost a doubling of performance in Video encoding tasks.  The gap is even more than double when the quad core is unleashed and overclocked to 3.33 GHz.  Furthermore, these 25% boost numbers are on the conservative side because one of the vendors was showing a liquid cooled 3.75 GHz quad core game machine at IDF.  That's a massive 41% overclock on a quad core Intel CPU that already has a massive lead to begin with!  The best liquid cooled AMD FX-62 processors max out at around 25% in overclocking but still can't compete with Intel's dual-core processors let alone the quad cores.  Since quad core CPUs go for roughly the same price as the high-end dual core parts when they came out, there's no doubt that the demand for these "fake" quad core processors will be high in the power user market.

For now, even the AMD four socket advantage in the Server market has melted away since it's about half the price to build a two socket quad core server compared to a four socket dual core AMD server.  AMD will come out with their quad core CPUs that come on a single die in the middle of 2007 promising to consume no more power than the existing dual core processors which should be slightly lower than Intel's current quad core CPUs.  The problem is that Intel is not standing still and Intel will be releasing 50 watt quad core processors in the first quarter of 2007 before AMD even begins to ship their first quad core CPU.  But will Intel actually deliver on their promise for lower power quad cores in Q1 2007?  So far all of the Intel Core 2 products in Server, Desktop, and Mobile have come on time so there is little reason to believe otherwise and AMD will have quite a bit of catching up to do.