Introducing the AMD Athlon MP Processor

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Well, as you no doubt have guessed, the official name of the Palomino core processor for the server and workstations system is Athlon MP. I’ve had this information for a while, and it was fun to see the debates rage between people in our forums arguing about what they thought the name was what it should be. The Athlon MP (Multi-Processor) CPU is the first processor from AMD that is supported on a multiprocessor platform. The core of the Athlon MP is identical to that of the Athlon 4, which as the mobile version of Palomino processor, that was released in May. Since we did not cover that launch, I’ll give everyone a technical brief on what has changed in the new Athlon processors.

The most well known change, and initial reason behind AMD’s development of a new Athlon core, is the lowered power consumption. As a result of modified microarchitecture and circuit implementation that Athlon 4 and Athlon MP processors consume up to 20% level power than an equally fast Athlon processor. While most of the details of how this is done are beyond the scope of this article, there are few interesting facets that I can share. In the case of a logic circuit, one that receives a value, performs an analysis of it, and then out returns another value, there is a good chance that the value input is switching more often than the output values vary. By noticing what values would change this circuit, the processor can avoid unnecessary switching and thus save dramatically on power consumption.

The Athlon Palomino core processor also adds the new AMD PowerNow! technology that reduces power usage. Mainly useful only for notebooks, the technology allows the processor to dynamically modify the delivered performance. This means that when a program, such as Internet Explorer, is the only thing that is running, the laptop doesn’t need to push the processor to its full 1 GHz level. Running at 500 MHz would be more than enough for that application, so the PowerNow! slows the processor down and thus power consumption as well. When the user opens up Photoshop or some other CPU intensive program, it will push the processor back up to its highest level. PowerNow! technology allows for 32 different steppings between 500 MHz and the processors default speed.

Upgrading the AMD 3DNow! Technology, AMD is debuting 3DNow! Professional on the Athlon 4 and Athlon MP processors. This new version adds 52 new SIMD instruction sets (Single Instruction Multiple Data) completing AMD’s support for Intel’s SSE instruction set. With this setup, AMD now has an edge of SIMD instructions on every processor with the exception of the Pentium 4, which added SSE2 to its arsenal.

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