Thursday, February 21, 2013

x86 Desktop Landscape

AMD, Where art thou...
On a benchmark chart?

It's February 2013. Ivy bridge dominates intel's landscape - celeron, pentium, core i3/i5/i7 are all derivative, and that's a good thing, since it's a pretty damn good core revision.

AMD has been having a hard time since Intel jumped on to Core architecture - which was derived from Pentium-M. Pentium-M's beginnings were not with netburst used in Pentium 4/Pentium D, but from Pentium 3's tualatin. This was the rival that was getting beaten by the AMD Athlon that preceded the Athlon XP.

So Intel after investing heavily in netburst, realized they had a killer core with the Pentium III derived Pentium-M, and pushed core architecture and core 2 nixing the netburst strategy - good call.

Many companies tend to have individuals that push their projects - sometimes, when there's too heavy an investment in a product that isn't as good as an existing service they stick with the newer not-as-good product. The individuals in charge of that new product line or those deciding to keep it going, spin tales to investors of how much more it will earn. Why? Because if they go back to develop the older product, they believe they're admitting a mistake.

What is AMD spinning now with bulldozer? The only thing it's pushing now, is that it's cheap. Phenom II (aka stars core) offered better single core performance overall. Today a phenom II x6 1100t - a 3.2GHz 6 core (stars) cpu, can stand toe to toe, even trading blows with AMD's top of the line vishera core - 8350. A 4.0GHz part.

Obviously, AMD's stars based core was getting long in the tooth, but bulldozer isn't the (full?) answer. It's great for multiple threads of integer processing, but it's not 8 full cores. It's 4 modules, featuring a pair of cores each that share some units (like floating point), giving reduced performance.

To be fair, it's not BAD. I think we would have had better CPUs though if Phenom II cores were further developed. The fallout is pretty harsh though. AMD's top end "8"-core, 8350 CPU is selling for $200 - A far cry from the Athlon 64 days of thousand dollar CPUs. Problem is, the 8-core (4-module) AMD cpu still doesn't contend well enough against Intel core i5 quad cores.

There is a light for AMD though against core i3, there's the 6 core processors. while core i3 exhibits strong single core performance, the 6-core (3 module) AMD 6200/6300 isn't convincingly behind, and packs a wallop in multithreaded/multiprocessing loads. Of course - keep in mind if going the bulldozer route, there are CPU scheduling patches you should apply for your OS - after all, why run two floating point threads on the same module and have them fight for the one FPU?

AMD's patches:

AMD's blog post on CPU core scheduling:

Lets not start getting into TDP here...

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