Articles: CPU

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Judging by the situation in contemporary processor market we can state with all certainty that clock frequency is no longer the most attractive feature of today’s products. For example, processor makers are no longer marking processor models with frequency, but use rating numbers, which are assigned according to completely different principles. As a result of these changes, the rules of competition between Intel and AMD have changed as well. These two companies used to compete for new frequency heights just recently, but now the new “core hunt” seems to have become much more significant: today both CPU makers try to become the first to launch a processor with the biggest number of computational cores.

As of now AMD is the leader of this unannounced race. They can already offer twelve-core Opteron 6100 processors also known as Magny-Cours. As for Intel, their biggest number of CPU cores per product has only reached eight at this time: these can be found in the server Xeon 7500 and 6500 processor series also known as Beckton or Nehalem-EX. However, it is important to understand that the connection between the number of computational cores and the performance level is not that obvious after all. You can see the performance increase proportionally as you switch to processors with larger number of cores only in specially optimized tasks, which are more typical for the server market. That is why neither AMD, nor Intel is starting the same multi-core competition in the desktop segment just yet.

However, some echo of the “core hunt”  managed to reach the regular users. Right now we are witnessing the arrival of six-core processors into the desktop segment. The first step in this direction belonged to Intel, who has recently launched their six-core Core i7 processors. But at the same time, this step seems to be of a trial nature. Firstly, there is only one six-core solution at this time – Core i7-980X, and secondly, it belongs to a pretty expensive extreme Edition series targeted at a very small group of wealthy computer enthusiasts. Besides, Intel also used their new 32 nm process for the new six-core CPU: it will be an excellent way of polishing off and mastering the new manufacturing technology, because there is no risk of creating a short supply or dealing with super high production costs. In other words, Intel was indeed the first to roll out a six-core processor for home users, but they did it purely formally, most likely to pronounce themselves as pioneers in this field and prepare the users for the multi-core CPU future.

Intel’s traditional antagonist, AMD Corporation, decided to follow a different ideology. In response to six-core Intel Core i7-980X in the premium price segment, AMD decided to start their six-core processors invasion from the mainstream computer systems in the average price segment. And I have to admit that AMD indeed have all the resources they need for that. AMD six-core solution is based on a core that has already been run in well in the server segment and is manufactured with pretty mature 45 nm process. Therefore, the new six-core Phenom II X6 processor, which we are going to discuss in our today’s review, is in fact not a direct competitor to Intel Core i7-980X. AMD simply offers us a new solution for mainstream computer systems, which so far have been built only around dual- and quad-core processors. But does it really make sense to use six-core processors in today’s desktop systems or AMD is again moving way ahead of time - this is the primary question we will try to answer in our today’s article.

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