AMD upgrades dual-core Opteron chip to 3 GHz

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) has begun shipping two 3 GHz versions of its dual-core Opteron chip to server vendors, continuing a battle over multicore processing power with Intel Corp., the company said Wednesday.

AMD plans to begin full-volume shipments by early May of the new Opteron 2222 SE chip for two-processor servers and the 8222 SE chip for eight-processor servers, said Patrick Patla, director of Opteron marketing for the company.

The new chips are similar to AMD's previous top-shelf, dual-core chip, but run as fast as 3 GHz instead of 2.8 GHz for customers with general-purpose servers and workstations who need the extra speed to handle larger databases or more complex technical computing tasks.

The company did not say which vendors plan to release computers using the new chips, but vendors using the current Opteron chips include Dell Inc., Gateway Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Rackable Systems Inc.

AMD plans to design only one more version of this processor family, releasing a 3.2 GHz dual-core Opteron chip by the fourth quarter, before committing entirely to a quad-core Opteron design called Barcelona, due to reach markets in the middle of 2007, Patla said. AMD will continue to produce those final dual-core Opteron chip designs for several years to come.

When used with multithreaded software, multicore chips can speed computing jobs by breaking them into smaller parts and calculating results in parallel. That approach can produce great results for high-end video games, but is more frequently used in servers than desktops.

Intel also plans to push its dual-core chips above 3 GHz by the end of 2007, using its next-generation Penryn chip design to speed up certain chips by shrinking their transistor dimensions from 65 nanometers to 45nm, the company said last Wednesday. In comparison, Barcelona will be AMD's first server chip with features smaller than 90nm.

Even so, the new Opteron chips beat Intel's fastest dual-core Woodcrest processors in several benchmarks, AMD claimed in a full-page newspaper ad running on Wednesday.

In return, Intel spokeswoman Christine Dotts replied with a single word: "Rubbish." She questioned AMD's benchmarking conditions and said that customers seeking improved server speed can buy Intel's quad-core chips for the same price as AMD's dual-core chips. Intel launched its Clovertown quad-core Xeon processor in November.

"We'll let the hundreds of reviewers and independent benchmarks speak on our behalf," Dotts said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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