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Sharky Extreme : News From Inside The Industry February 22, 2012
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News From Inside The Industry

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By Andy Patrizio :  April 27, 2010

AMD today announced the availability of a new six-core desktop processor and platform to accompany it, which includes a new chipset and support for hobbyists who like to tweak their processors to the limits of their heat sink and warranty.

The Phenom II X6, codenamed "Thuban," ranges in clock speed from 2.4GHz to 3.2GHz and has a new feature called Turbo Core that turns off unused cores and gives more clock speed to the few cores in use. Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) offers a similar feature it calls TurboBoost on select processors. In the case of Thuban, AMD said it can offer about 400MHz to 500MHz more per core. So the top-end part can hit 3.6GHz, according to Adam Kozak, platform marketing manager for desktops at AMD (NYSE: AMD).

The Turbo Core technology monitors the power levels of the processor, so it knows when cores are being shut off from disuse. As the cores are "falling asleep," Turbo Core kicks in, keeping the processor in its existing thermal levels. It does not require a new cooling fan and older motherboards may be able to support it, said Kozak. Those that can support it will need to perform a BIOS upgrade.

Even without the Turbo Core feature, AMD expects a 40- to 50-percent performance improvement over its quad-cores. "We saw the jump from one to two cores had a nice improvement, almost 100 percent. From two cores to four, the uptick was a little slower, but what we've seen recently is a lot of application developers are starting to ... divvy up their workload for however many cores you've got," he told InternetNews.com.

The applications that will benefit most from six cores will likely be content rendering, such as audio and video, and gaming. If that performance is not enough, AMD is updating its OverDrive software used to tweak CPU performance. The System Diagram tab shows the system in totality, from CPU and bus speeds to voltages and fan speeds. Users can tweak every chip in their system, including the I/O and chipset.

With the Phenom II X6, AMD is releasing the new 8-series chipset. The 890 chipset supports 6Gbit/sec throughput and more PCI Express slots, either two 16x slots or four 8x slots. This can be used to chain a number of ATI graphics cards for high-speed GPU computing. The 8-series chipset also supports up to four graphics cards in one PC for just that reason.

The Phenom II X6 is socket compatible with any AM2+ or AM3 motherboard and is compatible with existing thermal levels, so current heat sinks and power supplies will support the processor.

There are two six-core processors available. The flagship is the Phenom II X6 1090T "Black Edition," which is shipped with none of its clocks locked, so overclockers can go wild. The 3.2GHz processor draws 125 watts, has 6MB of L3 cache and a 4GHz HyperTransport bus. Price is $295 in lots of 1,000.

By contrast, Intel's recently-released six-core/12-thread desktop processor, the Core i7 980, sells for $999. One Intel feature AMD's chips don't match is Hyper-Threading, which allows for simultaneous execution of two threads per core.

The Phenom II X6 1055T is the same as its bigger brother in all specs save its clock speed of 2.8GHz. It costs $199.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.