updated 10:30 am EDT, Tue April 27, 2010
AMD brings six-core CPU to the mainstream
AMD this morning at last took the wraps from its first mainstream six-core processor, the Phenom II X6. It adds two new cores but without changing the power draw compared to AMD's faster quad-cores or even the price, letting regular users get added speed in newer games and other very parallel tasks. They also add a Turbo Core feature which, like Intel's Turbo Boost, shuts down unneeded cores while ramping up the clock speed; as many as three cores can be active at the higher speeds.
The lineup starts with just two processors but relatively high clock speeds. At the base, the 1055T runs at a normal 2.8GHz but clocks up to 3.3GHz in Turbo Core. It carries 3MB of Level 2 cache and 6MB of Level 3 cache, uses 125W of peak power and should cost just $199 in bulk. The 1090T Black Edition not only runs at a faster 3.2GHz (3.6GHz Turbo Core) but is unlocked to let enthusiasts overclock as far as their cooling and power supplies allow; it costs a still-modest $285.
All of the chips work in existing AM2+ and AM3 mainboards and are already shipping to resellers and PC builders.
The launch leaves Intel caught somewhat off-guard as it currently reserves six-core chips for the Core i7 Extreme Edition and Xeons, which cost at least $999 even in large-scale batches. Intel's design is likely to be faster in most situations but is so far impractical for most users.
While most likely to help budget PC builders like Acer and HP in the short term, the new Phenom II processors could help companies like Apple sell many-core performance desktops without necessarily selling pro workstations or enthusiast systems.