AMD Bulldozer to ship ‘within the next week or so’

Written by Clive Webster

August 26, 2011 | 15:16

Tags: #apu #bulldozer #core #cpu #definition #fusion #fx #launch #marketing #module #on-sale #processor #specs #what-is #zambezi

Companies: #amd

The wait is almost over for AMD fans, and owners of Socket AM3+ motherboards with 990FX chipsets: Bulldozer CPUs will ship ‘within the next week or so’. ZDNet says the claim was made at the Hot Chips conference a couple of weeks ago, and has some new details and specs to tease us with.

Let’s just get the multi-layered codenames and brand names out of the way first though, to avoid confusion. The new CPU will indeed be a CPU – it uses the Socket AM3+ packaging and therefore has no on-board GPU. The overarching design of the CPU is codenamed Bulldozer, the first flavour of which will be codenamed Zambezi. The brand name of a Bulldozer-architecture CPU is FX.

A Zambezi CPU is comprised of four ‘modules’, each of which – AMD claims – contains two ‘cores’. However, as each core does share some resources with its partner, we’re unconvinced by this terminology: a core should be an independent execution unit that can accept, process and output work.

After all, the two Bulldozer ‘cores’ have to share ‘several components including a front-end (fetch and decode), floating-point unit, data prefetch unit.’ For the record, we also refuse to refer to GPUs as having ‘cores’ rather than stream processors (much to Nvidia’s annoyance).

It’s easier to think of a module as a CPU core which has the ability to process two threads concurrently, so we’ll insist on referring to Bulldozer modules as cores. There is way more duplication of resources in a Bulldozer core than in any other CPU core we’ve seen, so the boost in multi-threaded performance is likely to be very high. Intel’s rival and seemingly inferior Hyper-Therading technology typically gives a performance boost of up to 30 per cent, depending on the workload.

ZDNet is saying that each Bulldozer core will have 2MB of Level 2 cache each, while the design itself has some new instruction sets, both common to Intel (‘SSE [version not given], encryption, and AVX for floating-point operations’), and AMD-specific. The latter are said to ‘fill in some holes including FMA4 for HPC applications and XOP for numeric, multimedia, and audio/radio applications.’ Bulldozer will support DDR3 memory at (official) speeds of up to 1,866MHz. There’s also new power management features and auto-overclocking tech Turbo Core.

Zambezi will use Globalfoundries’ 32nm SoI (silicon on Insulator) manufacturing process, which is no surprise, and each die is said to measure a hefty 315mm2. Server and workstation versions of Bulldozer CPUs should ship in September.

With Sandy Bridge-E setups looking rather pricey, and not due on sale for a little while, AMD has an opportunity to become the enthusiast’s choice in the run-up to Christmas. Do you think it’ll take that chance? Let us know in the forum.
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