Advanced Micro Devices Inc. launched its highly publicized new server chip Monday, delivering the biggest jolt to its product lineup in four years. The company’s redesigned Opteron processor is the first from AMD to feature four computing engines on a single chip instead of just one or two. How does Barcelona stack up to a pair of dual-core Opterons? In other words, how much faster can we expect Phenom to be vs. the Athlon 64 X2? To put it succinctly, it looks like around 15% clock for clock. Clock for clock that’s nothing short of a huge increase in performance over the K8 based Opterons. We saw how competitive AMD became after the first round of price cuts this year, but after the second set Intel went back to dominating. The trouble for AMD this time around is that Phenom is a much larger chip than the outgoing Athlon 64 X2, whereas Intel’s Penryn family will actually be smaller than Conroe. AMD is already losing a considerable amount of money each quarter, so fabbing a larger chip at the same price as current CPUs will only make the situation worse. However, Intel can afford to continue to keep its processors as aggressively priced, especially moving to 45nm. To put it plainly: Phenom/Barcelona makes this price war more difficult on AMD, while Penryn makes it easier on Intel. What’s the end game? Is there a solution? The concern is that a non-competive AMD will bring about a more complacent Intel, which we do not want. We want the hungry Intel that we’ve enjoyed for the past year, we want ridiculous performance and aggressive pricing, and we won’t get that without an AMD that can fight.
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