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Friday, January 21, 2005
AMD to keep dual-core processors in current 90nm power envelope

AMD provided first bits on power usage of its upcoming dual-core Opterons last October. System builders now received confirmation that the new processors will stay within the power consumption range of current 90 nm processors

The manufacturer's guidelines indicate that dual-core processors will maintain the 95 watt power envelope of its current CPUs built in 90nm. A reader pointed us to an internal AMD document that lists the thermal design power (TDP) of "x75" and "x80" dual-core Opterons with clock speeds of 2.20 and 2.40 GHz at 95 watts. This is the same value the company provides for single-core Opterons.

The dual-cores will also keep maximum supply current at 80 amperes. The maximum value for operating temperature drops from 68 to 67 degrees Celsius and supply voltage decreases from 1.40 volts for the single-core to 1.35 volt for the dual-core.

The spec sheet also lists low-voltage dual-core Opterons. x70 and a version of the x75 are rated at 55W and 1.15 volts running at 2.0 and 2.2 GHz, respectively. An x60 model with 1.6 GHz runs with a maximum current of 30 amperes and 1.10 volts and will consume not more than 30 watts, according to the document.

In direct comparison to the power and current values of Intel's dual-core Smithfield processors, AMD may get its best opportunity in quite some time to convincingly promote a superior processor architecture. Analysts however feel it is too early to draw any conclusions yet. "We are still looking at least half a year until those processor come out," said Dean McCarron, analyst with Mercury Research. Even then, he was not too concerned about the 130 watts, a dual-core Smithfield may consume. "These are worst case scenarios. It does not mean that the chip will draw that much all the time, but in fact consume much less most of the time."

Intel also could also dynamically change the frequency of the processor, if the performance is not required. "We could see a lot of throttling coming our way, where processors run at much lower speeds than their spec," McCarron said. This could be compared to 500-horsepower car that offers snappy response "for example when passing another car uphill."

Current indications however suggest that AMD's strategy to offer more performance per clock rate, which also translates in less power consumption per performance unit, could be paying off with the upcoming dual cores. While it is certainly too early to suggest that the potential of Intel's current desktop processor architecture could be exhausted in terms of power consumption, the company already announced that it will me moving its less power hungry Pentium-M will be moving towards the desktop. Analysts such as McCarron expect this to happen by 2006 or 2007.

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