Imagine for a moment you're at the decision making table at AMD; you are at least a year away from introducing an updated micro-architecture to refresh your now aging K8 design and your chief competitor just introduced faster and cooler CPUs than anything in your lineup. To make matters worse, this very same competitor enjoys a manufacturing advantage and has also announced that it will begin the transition to quad-core even earlier than originally expected, starting at the end of 2006. The earliest you can even hope to release a quad-core CPU is the middle of 2007. What do you do?

AMD's first move made sense, and that was to dramatically reduce the pricing of its entire lineup to remain competitive. Most computer components are not things you can buy and sell off of emotions alone, and thus something that performs worse must cost less. Through the price drops AMD actually ended up with a fairly attractive dual core lineup, although our similarly aggressive pricing from Intel meant that the most attractive AMD CPUs were the cheapest ones.

But what was AMD to do about the quad-core race? Even though Intel would release its first quad-core CPUs this year, less than 1% of all shipments would feature four cores. It won't be until the end of 2007 before more than 5% of Intel's shipments are quad-core CPUs. But would the loss in mindshare be great enough if Intel already jumped ahead in the race to more cores?

Manufacturing a quad-core Athlon 64 or Opteron on AMD's current 90nm process simply isn't feasible; AMD would end up with a chip that is too big and too hot to sell, not to mention that it would put an even greater strain on AMD's manufacturing which is already running at capacity.

With the 90nm solution being not a very good one, there's always the "wait until 2007" option, which honestly seemed like a very good one to us. We just mentioned that Intel wasn't going to be shipping many of these quad-core CPUs and the majority of users, even enthusiasts who are traditionally early adopters, will stay away from quad-core until 2007 at the earliest to begin with.

Then there's the third option, the one AMD ended up taking; instead of building quad-core on 90nm or waiting until next year, around April/May of 2006 AMD decided that it had a better solution. AMD would compete in the quad-core race by the end of 2006 but with two dual core CPUs running in a desktop motherboard.

Of course dual-core, dual-socket is nothing new, as AMD has been offering that on Opteron platforms for quite a while now. But the difference is that this new platform would be designed for the enthusiast, meaning it would come equipped with a performance tuned (and tweakable) BIOS, tons of USB ports, support for SLI, etc... Most importantly, unlike an Opteron system, this dual socket desktop platform would run using regular unbuffered DDR2 memory.

Back then the platform was called 4x4, and honestly it was about as appealing as a pickup truck. The platform has since matured and thanks to a very impressive chipset from NVIDIA and aggressive pricing from AMD, what's now known as Quad FX may actually have some potential. Today we're here to find out if AMD's first four-core desktop platform is a viable competitor to Intel's Kentsfield, or simply an embarrassing knee-jerk reaction.

The Platform
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  • mino - Friday, December 01, 2006 - link

    If you would bother to read, you would see those IDLE numbers are Without C'n'C.

    Witch C'n'C the IDLE number is be more like 250W than 380W.
    Reply
  • mino - Sunday, December 03, 2006 - link

    Hell, I should REALLY read after myself more thoroughly... Reply
  • JKing76 - Thursday, November 30, 2006 - link

    What have you got against pickup trucks? Reply
  • Genx87 - Thursday, November 30, 2006 - link

    I think it is safe to say Intel has caught AMD with its pants down this round with their Core 2 Duo line of products. Intels product line is much more compelling and performance\watt is scary good for Intel.

    Hell Intel's offering must be good, it got me to buy their product for the first time in nearly a decade! ;)
    Reply
  • mino - Friday, December 01, 2006 - link

    Actually not.

    AMD has caught Intel pants down in 2003. It took Intel 3!!! years to come back to game.
    Those 3 yrs Intel was NOT price competitive.

    Intel has just caught up in midle of 2006, this was to be expected and WAS expected by AMD.

    AMD is about to catch up to Intel after 1 year..
    This 1 year AMD IS price competitive, hence it is still in the game..

    The 2008 Intel CSI may catch AMD with pants down. May.

    Actually, in 2008 AMD will have some 30-35% marketshare and be so well entrenched in the corporate market that some mild performance(as now) hiccup is not gonna hurt them in any serious manner.
    Reply
  • Roy2001 - Thursday, November 30, 2006 - link

    If you need quad-core/CPU system, kentsfield is a much better choice, no question asked. Reply
  • sprockkets - Thursday, November 30, 2006 - link

    Why is it that just putting the other 2 cores on the same package reduces power consumption so much?

    Anyhow, yeah, Intel is ahead, though this would be good for servers, not for desktops. Even so, Intel for now is still better.

    But, I found for perhaps 90% of all people, an old s754 board with a $45 dollar Sempron works fast enough. I wish Anand would check out the new C7 processor mini ITX boards to see how well it works for so little power consumption.
    Reply
  • Furen - Thursday, November 30, 2006 - link

    The QX6700 pretty much draws twice as much power as the E6700, the big benefit of going for quad-core in a single system is that you only have one motherboard, harddrive, one set of RAM sticks, one video card, etc. The 4x4 is horribly engineered, I think even 400W at load is too much for two Opterons at 3GHz. Reply
  • mino - Friday, December 01, 2006 - link

    Two Opterons DO NOT employ 8000GTX usually ...
    Two Opterons do have 95W TDP(lower voltage) ... compared to 125W for FXs
    Two Opterons are available in 68W TDP ...
    Two Opterons are NOT available in 3GHz flavour ....

    Two Opterons are twice as expensive ....
    Reply
  • Furen - Thursday, November 30, 2006 - link

    The 4x4 motherboard, that is... Reply

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