Keeping Up with the Joneses

While AMD is certainly behind Intel when it comes to the high end of the market, as well as introducing 32 nm processors, they do have a very strong position and following in the sub-$200 processor market. AMD has released five new processors from $74 to $179, which they hope will help solidify their offerings in the face of Intel’s i3 and i5 processors.
    Last week AMD had the good fortune to announce that they had actually pulled a profit for the entire year of 2009.  This was of course propelled primarily from the $1.25 billion that Intel gave AMD to settle their little lawsuit about anti-competitive practices.  It also allowed AMD to fully spin off GLOBALFOUNDRIES, of which ATIC will gain complete control of fairly shortly.  With the giant costs that owning and operating a complex Fab out of the way, AMD should have a much easier time achieving profitability in the coming quarters.  Though AMD no longer is in the fabrication business, they continue to work very closely with GLOBALFOUNDRIES and as such any improvements GF makes to their product lines, AMD can capitalize on this.

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No Kevin Spacey here, but the tray is handy!

    Though we will not see a new high end desktop product for some time, AMD has not been standing still.  The recent Intel i3/i5 release in the sub-$200 market has pushed AMD to redefine their budget offerings.  What we have received are 5 semi-new chips that have gotten 100 MHz increases in performance, but stay at the same price level as their previous, lower clocked counterparts.  All of this while achieving the same TDPs.  Part of this is due to the headroom that was already built into these chips, and part of it is just the constant improvement that has been implemented in GF’s 45 nm SOI process.

The Usual Suspects

    As mentioned before, the only thing new about these processors is the 100 MHz increase that each has received.  The only notable change is that the Phenom II X2 555 BE is a Revision C3 die.  Remember that the Revision C3 was introduced with the new X4 965 that decreased the TDP of that part from 140 watts down to 125 watts.  It also allowed some more headroom in overclocking.

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The Athlon II X2 die is a very manageable 117 mm squared, so it is relatively easy for AMD to produce relatively inexpensively.

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The Athlon II X4 die is larger than the X2, but each core has its L2 cache cut in half.  So while it is a bigger chip, it is a true quad core at 179 mm squared (compared to the 264 mm squared of a full Phenom II).

    The Athlon II cores are still based on their respective C2 designs, so no major change has been applied to them since their initial introduction last year.  Last September and November saw the introduction of the Athlon II X4 and X3 respectively.  These quickly became popular parts due to their outstanding performance for their price point.  The Athlon II X4 620 (2.6 GHz) broke all sorts of barriers by being the first native quad core to be offered for an astounding $99.  The X4 630 is clocked at 2.8 GHz, but was also more expensive at that time ($120).

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