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1. AMD Readies “Thuban” Six-Core Desktop Processor

Nothing inspires our readers more than the future developments by Advanced Micro Devices. In the second half of 2009 the most popular news-story at X-bit labs was about a yet another forthcoming microprocessor by AMD. This time it was not twelve-core Opteron “Magny-Cours” chip, but rather “modest” six-core AMD Phenom II X6 “Thuban” central processing unit (CPU). 

The world’s second largest developer of x86 chips plans to start shipping its AMD Phenom II X6 “Thuban” processors in the second quarter of next year, according to sources familiar with AMD’s roadmap. AMD Phenom II X6 will be compatible with socket AM3/AM2+ (with split power plane) infrastructure and will have integrated dual-channel PC3-10600 (DDR3 1333MHz) memory controller. It is very likely that Thuban processors will retain the design of the code-named Istanbul chips for servers, thus, will feature 3MB L2 cache (512KB per core) and 6MB of L3 cache. The chips will be made using 45nm SOI fabrication process. Power consumption of the new CPUs is set to be decided.

Die shot of six-core AMD Opteron "Istanbul" processor

The new six-core microprocessors will be the main part of AMD’s Leo platform that will be based on the AMD 890FX and 890GX core-logic sets. The new chipsets will offer better performance and functionality, e.g., they will support Serial ATA-600, 14 USB 2.0 ports and so on, but both will only hit mass production in April, 2010, and will be formally released in May next year, according to market sources.

AMD officially confirmed plans to launch six-core processors for desktops next year, however, the company remained tight-lipped about their performance, specifications or features. The reason for that is simple: even though Thuban is inside AMD’s roadmap there is still a lot of work to do before it will be possible to release the novelty. In order to be competitive with currently available products, AMD will have to clock its six-core desktop chips at 3.0GHz – 3.20GHz; however, since performance of microprocessors tends to increase rather rapidly, the company should consider 3.40GHz - 3.60GHz  ranges as well as dynamic overclocking technology (in fact, AMD is working hard to improve overclockability of its platforms, so me may well see a new version of its Overdrive tool that will automatically overclock six-core chips when not all cores are needed) in order to return to the high-end CPU market.

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