AMD Unleashes DDR3, Triple-Core Phenom IIs


"We should start seeing [AM3 boards] in the channel around Feb. 20," said Robert Pearce, senior technical marketing specialist at Corsair Memory.

AMD's Phenom II lineup now includes five quad-cores and two triple-cores, with the newest products capable of supporting both DDR3 memory and the cheaper DDR2 variety on AM2+ boards, whereas Intel's Nehalem-class Core i7 chips are DDR3-only devices. AMD has opted for the older dual-channel memory architecture for its first DDR3-enabled Phenom II parts, while Intel's Nehalem platforms feature a triple-channel memory allocation system.

"The introduction of AM3 is great for us, because DDR2 is too cheap to make money with," said Pearce, whose company last week released a line of high-performance DDR3 memory modules built specifically for Intel Core i7-based systems, the Corsair Dominator GT family.

"But [AM3 platforms] are dual-channel instead of triple-channel and we're down to just a few parts that are dual-channel now. It's tough to meet the demands of two competing platforms, but eventually we'll have parts that are specifically for AM3."

Sponsored post

With the gap in process technology between AMD and Intel made up -- Intel enjoyed more than a year's head start on its smaller rival at the 45nm node -- AMD is clearly trying to take advantage of its window of opportunity ahead of Intel's transition to 32nm, which should begin by the end of this year.

The new triple-core processors, for example, are the continuation of a unique offering from AMD. The chip maker surprised quite a few people in early 2008 when it released triple-core Phenom chips as a way to take advantage of its "native" multicore architecture -- and to get some return on quad-core parts that wound up with one dud core.

AMD's first 45nm triple-cores are the 2.8GHz Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition, initially priced at $145, and the 2.6GHz Phenom II X3 710, available for $125. Both triple-core parts feature 1.5 MB of L2 cache, 6 MB of L3 cache and a 4,000MHz HyperTransport bus.

The chip maker is positioning its $145 X3 720 against Intel's $163 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo E8400 processor, implying that the extra core and the price savings make up for a slower clock. Taking the reverse tack, one of the new Phenom II quad-cores, the $175 2.6GHz X4 810, is being pitted against Intel's $163 2.33GHz Core 2 Quad Q8200.

The Phenom II X4 810, the unlisted but reportedly available 2.5GHz X4 805 and both of the triple cores all have another selling point -- these new parts take the thermal footprint of the first batch of Phenom IIs released in early January down from 125W to 95W. There's no free lunch here, though -- the two new quad-cores have just 4 MB of L3 cache, while the 3.0GHz X4 940 and 2.8GHz X4 920 boast 6 MB.

The last new chip from AMD is the 2.6GHz Phenom II X4 910. Like the X4 805, it's not listed for price or specs on AMD's processor price list, but should be a 125W performer with 6 MB of L3 cache and likely priced somewhere between $175 and $195.