Evolving Spider: What's next for AMD?

AMD is planning to lift Phenom frequencies to beyond 2.4GHz early next year. Will it be enough?

With the dust settling on its tripled-pronged product launch, what's next for AMD? How about faster clocking Phenom quad-core CPUs, a new chipset with integrated DirectX 10 graphics and a dual-GPU 3D board?

Early next year, AMD has promised to roll out both the 2.4GHz Phenom 9700 processor and a range topping FX model. Clockspeeds for the latter have yet to be announced, but 2.6GHz is an extremely safe bet.

Faster Phenoms

It's a step in the right direction. However, with Intel flexing its muscles to the tune of 3.2GHz (see our review of the new Core 2 QX9770), it's unlikely to be nearly enough. Particularly given the fact that Phenom also fails to match Intel's Core 2 architecture when running at matched frequencies.

AMD will therefore be praying that its upcoming 45nm chip production process will allow it to rapidly ramp up Phenom frequencies. Problem is, AMD 45nm chips could be as much as a year away.

Officially, AMD's 45nm node is due in the second half of 2008. However, unofficially, Tech.co.uk understands that the new process won't be online until the final quarter of next year. That's an awfully long time to be taking a beating from Intel.

Spider platform evolves

At around the same time as AMD wheels out those quicker Phenoms, another member of the 7 Series chipset is slated to appear. Known as the 780, it brings integrated graphics with full support for Microsoft's DirectX 10 gaming platform. Rumour has it, the new chip simply blows away all previous integrated graphics solutions.

While we're on the subject of graphics, AMD is also prepping a new flagship discreet video card, again for early 2008. Unlike its previous range-topping boards, the new ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 will not be based on a single, ultra-powerful GPU.

Instead, it will pack a pair of Radeon HD 3870 chips running parallel. AMD recently told Tech.co.uk that the new board leverages its Crossfire multi-GPU technology but also adds some secret sauce to improve performance scaling.

Whatever the new technology AMD has added to the card, let's hope it translates into more reliable performance that its existing multi-card Crossfire solutions.

Bulldozing Intel

If none of the above makes a dent in Intel's impressive roadmap, AMD's final hope lies in its upcoming 'Fusion' processors and the 'Bulldozer' execution core.

Fusion, of course, will be AMD's first CPU to boast integrated graphics. It won't be a high performance product, but it could offer solid x86 performance at a lower price point and in smaller form factors than ever before.

As for Bulldozer, it's AMD's first all-new execution architecture since the K7 core of 1999. Intel's so-called "Tick Tock" strategy of introducing new CPU architectures and production nodes in successive years is apparently running like clockwork. So, Bulldozer will need to be very special indeed.


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