AMD Quad-Core Opteron (Barcelona) Technology Report
It has become a trend with AMD-ATI to be late with their products. Their products may have been groundbreaking when first announced, but long delays in getting those products out ensured that they would lose much of that advantage. ATI, for example, was so late with the Radeon HD 2900 XT that it was not able to deliver the NVIDIA-killing performance promised earlier.
AMD is in the same boat as ATI. Delays after delays of their long-awaited Barcelona core not only ensured the dominance of their rival, Intel, in the desktop processor market, it also ensured that Intel would be the only choice for those who want a quad-core processor. Over the past few weeks, we have actively covered the inevitable pre-launch hocus-pocus from both AMD and Intel :
- AMD Quad-Core Opteron (Barcelona) Technology Report Part 1
- ED#49 : AMD Barcelona : To Launch Or Not To Launch?
- ED#50 : Intel 45 nm Processors To Hit The Market Soon
- ED#51 : The Hush Hush AMD Event
- ED#52 : AMD Speaks On Barcelona & Phenom
- ED#53 : Intel's Future Plans
- ED#54 : The AMD NDA Scandal
Well, the wait is finally over today. AMD finally launched the AMD Barcelona on September 10, 2007 after over 3 years of pain, tears and innumerable delays. Will the new processor, christened the Quad-Core Opteron, be able to redeem AMD's reputation and finances which have taken more than a huge beating even as recently as yesterday? Let's find out.
The New Quad-Core Opteron
The Barcelona represents the first significant change in AMD's microarchitecture since 2003. Everyone is eager to see what AMD can do, especially since AMD is taking a different approach from Intel. For one thing, AMD opted to go with a monolithic design where the chip is designed to have four cores. Yes, that is the native quad-core technology that AMD has been harping since Intel launched their quad-core processor.
To make their quad-core processors, Intel chose to use a multi-chip package where a quad-core processor is made up of two separate dual-core processors. This isn't as elegant a design as AMD's monolithic chip, but it allows for lower costs, higher yields and higher clock speeds. Now that AMD has their true quad-core processor out, it only remains to be seen if the performance advantages of a monolithic design can make up for the cost and delays it took for AMD to get it right.
As we have seen in Part 1 of this technology report, the Barcelona also has a new three-tier cache structure which you can also see in the diagram below. Each core will have their own, dedicated 128KB L1 and 512KB L2 caches and all four cores will share a unified L3 cache that is 2MB in size.
However, the biggest advantage the new quad-core AMD Opteron has may not be its performance or design. Rather, it's the easy upgrade path it offers. According to AMD, all you will need is to update the BIOS of the Socket F motherboard and replace the current dual-core Opteron with the new quad-core Opteron processor. You do not even have the change the cooler or power supply as it has the same thermal output and power consumption!
In other words, the new quad-core Opteron processor offers a much greater processing capability at the same power and thermal envelopes as AMD's dual-core Opteron processors. For more information on how AMD is able to achieve this, take a look at the Improved Power Management section of Part 1 of this technology report.