SAN JOSE, Calif. – Advanced Micro Devices claims it will beat archrival Intel in shipping the first 5 GHz PC processor. AMD targets the performance hungry market of computer gamers with its eight-core AMD FX-9590 which it said will ship in systems this summer.
The news comes days after Intel announced its next-generation processor family, Haswell. It initially comes in 51 versions ranging from 1.7 to 3.9 GHz.
In past generations, Intel released Extreme Edition versions of its latest processors with more cores, threads and memory channels targeting PC gamers. It has not yet released such versions for its Haswell or prior Ivy Bridge families, leaving AMD a niche to fill.
"We have not shipped a 5 GHz base frequency high-end gaming CPU," and Intel spokesman said. "But almost all gamers overclock and many Intel CPUs have hit that frequency over the years in an overclocked state [and] some enthusiast OEMs like Falcon Northwest even ship systems with CPUs overclocked as standard,” he said.
Systems integrators--not brand name OEMs--will deliver the initial AMD 5 GHz systems. That could be a sign the company hurriedly ordered the parts from the factory when it spotted the lack of an ultra-fast part in the Haswell line up.
The 5 GHz milestone is significant but dubious. Years ago both companies largely shifted from competing on higher data rates to battling over MIPS per Watt or joule because chips were eating up too much power and dissipating too much heat.
“AMD has absolutely set a record here in terms of frequency.,” said David Kanter, a microprocessor analyst with Real World Tech. “I think the challenge is that performance does not necessarily track frequency for modern CPUs,” he said.
That said, PC gamers remain a small but vocal segment that demand the most souped-up machines you can plug into a wall socket. The desktops often boast multiple graphics cards that burn more energy and heat than the host x86 and do most of the system’s heavy lifting rendering games.
AMD’s news comes amid the E3 show this week where Microsoft officially rolled out its next-generation Xbox using AMD chips.
Systems will be based on two versions of the chips that use AMD’s Piledriver x86 core for client PCs. Both the 5 GHz FX-9590 and the 4.7 GHz FX-9370 are unlocked so users can overclock them.
Both chips use AMD’s Turbo Core 3.0 technology to optimize performance by spreading workloads across their eight cores. AMD did not say which Radeon graphics core the chips use.
Similarly, AMD did not immediately say the price or power consumption of its 5 GHz chip. Intel’s 3.9 GHz Haswell consumes 84 W TDP and sells for up to $350.
I'll be curious to see more about this.
The biggest issue I'm aware of for the gaming crowd looking for that last bit of performance is heat dissipation. A few years back, one of the extreme tech sites ran a feature on how they'd overclocked one of the Intel Pentium models to 5 ghz. They used liquid Nitrogen to cool it. It was a "Kids, don't try this at home." sort of thing. They could point to it and say "We *did* it!", but it wasn't a generally applicable solution.
I also wonder about the graphics core. My feel is that Nvidia has the edge in gaming, and there will be gamers who might want to use the AMD CPU but not use the graphics core, and let Nvidia graphics cards handle the video. There will probably be a custom BIOS to make that sort of thing selectable.
The PS3 used the Cell processor, which was a very unusual 7+1 core processor from Sony/IBM/Toshiba. Aside from being difficult for developers to use, development on the Cell processor has basically stagnated for the past 4 years, so it is no surprise it was not a contender for the new generation of consoles.
(The Wii and Xbox360 both used more conventional PowerPC processors from IBM, so pricing might be an issue for them.)
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.