AMD vs Intel: The future of desktop CPUs

2008 uncovered as AMD and Intel go head-to-head

Undecided between AMD or Intel processors? We've taken at look both companies releases and plans for 2008 to help you identify what's best for you.

Unfortunately, two setbacks marred the highly anticipated release of Phenom.

First, right before the processor's debut, a bug was discovered in the L3 cache that in rare instances could cause system lock-ups. The software patch that AMD subsequently released fixed this problem, but system performance took a slight hit. For now, avoid systems bearing Phenom 9500 and 9600 processors. AMD will be releasing new CPUs with this bug fixed under the 9550 and 9650 model names.

The second problem was that processor performance of the initial wave of high-end Phenoms trailed that of Intel's already-entrenched Core 2 Duo line of CPUs in head-to-head testing. There's an important caveat here: benchmarking tests between Phenom and Core 2 were waged at a fairly high range of CPU ranks. We'll know more about relative performance at the low- and midrange in coming weeks.

Interestingly, the current state of the market is not unlike the conditions AMD faced 10 years ago, when Intel was a consensus favourite at the performance and compatibility levels. In 2008, system buyers can expect AMD to attempt to make up ground in the price-performance ground war by aggressively pricing Phenom and old-gen Athlon processors. The end result should be highly affordable basic-use PCs.

For 2008, AMD has some fairly substantial hopes staked around a brand new platform that will feature integrated on-die graphics and a complementary new chipset that will, theoretically, harness the power of this integrated approach to computing.

The 2008 Phenom lineup

Over the course of 2008, AMD will release a number of Phenom processors at all price levels. At the performance level, we'll see the release of three processors in the quad-core Phenom FX line: the 2.6GHz FX-82, the 2.4GHz FX-90 and the 2.6GHz FX-91. All three processors will have 2MB of L2 cache and 2MB of shared L3 cache. The FX-82 will be compatible with Socket AM2+, while the two FX-9x will utilise AMD's server-oriented Socket F+, which features the speedier memory controller found in HyperTransport 3.0. It's a fair bet that we'll see more FX processors later in the year, we expect to see this series of processors top at 3.4GHz by year's end.

At the high- and mid-range CPU calibres, we'll see numerous Phenom chips. In the first quarter of 2008, AMD is scheduled to release the fixed versions of the flawed Phenom 9500 and 9600 processors released in 2007. As mentioned, they will be named the Phenom 9550 and 9650 and will run at clock speeds of 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz, respectively.

The second quarter of 2008 will bring the speedier quad-core Phenom 9700 (2.4GHz) and 9900 (2.6GHz) as well as a slightly slower 1.8GHz 9150 model. All of the aforementioned 9000 series CPUs will feature 2GB of L2 cache and 2MB of L3 cache. Later in the year, we expect to see speed jumps up to 3.4GHz in this series.

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George Jones

PC Advisor
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