Intel and AMD, Problems, Problems

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Intel delays 3.0GHz CPU

There’s a few questions that need to be answered, starting with “What’s wrong?” and ending with “Does this affect all D-1 stepping chips, and if so, as of what week have they been fixed?” but we know nada about this.

It’s probably not fair to expect an instant answer, but it is more than fair to start hearing answers by sometime next week.

Anything else would be speculation with no basis at all, so we won’t for the moment.

But if silence is no good from AMD; it’s no better when it’s Intel inside the spotlight.

What’s An Opteron?

The Inquirer has an article today suggesting that AMD may be rethinking the role of Opteron and sell a few game machines.

We think the problem is more fundamental than that.

Why Two Sockets?

Athlon64s are supposed to fit into a socket with 754 pins. Opterons are supposed to fit into a socket with 940 pins.

This means two production lines for the processors and two production lines for motherboards. It means you can’t put an Opteron in an Athlon64 board, or (unless AMD does something never done before) an Athlon64 in a Opteron motherboard.

Why?

What’s the difference between an Athlon64 and an Opteron? Two of the key differences are:

  • Opterons support dual channel DDR, and Athlon64s won’t.
  • Opterons have extra Hypertransport links to connect to one or more processors, and at least most Athlon64s won’t.

    I would personally like a dual channel DDR Hammer system. That would be very, very competitive against PIVs. But I can’t ever get that with a socket 754 Athlon64 system. To get it, I have to marry socket 940 and what are likely to be sky-high socket 940 platform prices.

    If I ever get interested in Athlon64s later on, I have to buy a whole new platform for that.

    Why? What good does this do AMD? I have to choose between high prices and a less than optimally enhanced system. I don’t like that. At all. And neither should you.

    Fortunately, there’s a very simple answer to this.

    Would it not be better to standardize the whole Hammer line at 940 pins?

    I’m not saying, “Give me an Opteron for a Duron price.” You don’t have to connect all the pins on all the processors. If AMD doesn’t want desktop users to have 8-way or even 2-way multiprocessing capability, just don’t connect the relevant pins, just like they’re going to do with the Opterons.

    If you don’t want people buying the cheapie Athlon64s to have dual DDR, again, if AMD feels compelled to do so, don’t connect the relevant pins. Motherboard manufacturers with socket 754 boards ready would hardly have to change anything but the socket itself on those boards; there would be no new traces to connect.

    Let motherboard manufacturers design different mobos around the price points. You can have server-type boards, workstation boards, high-end desktop boards, and low-end desktop boards. Give people more flexibility to choose the sort of package they need for their current or future needs without worrying about incompatible sockets.

    The costs would be minimal. If you want brand and price differentiation, you can keep the different brand names just like you had AthlonMPs and Athlons and Durons. But let them be interoperable in a motherboard just like AthlonMPs and Athlons and Durons were.

    If I were buying for myself, I’d shy away from Hammers of any sort now and later because they don’t have the feature set and flexibility I want, at a (somewhat reasonble) price.

    I think a lot of you will find yourself in that boat, too, sooner or later.

    There’s enough time to make these changes.

    But don’t worry. If they don’t, I know somebody who’ll give you the kind of choices I’m talking about. It’s a company called Intel, and somehow, they’ve managed to make a few bucks doing just that.

    All because of a stupid socket, and a stupid product differentiation plan.

    P.S. Some of the early responses say, “Xeons have 603 pins, what’s your beef?”

    Another early response explains the “beef” rather well:

    “In a nutshell, AMD is working backwards from Intel. Intel starts w/ the desktop and stacks on features (not necessarily performance), on the way up through the server parts. AMD made a great Opteron and gutted it for the desktop.”

    That’s the beef.

    Email Ed

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