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Says Barcelona outperforms Intel Xeon

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AMD executives have tried to assure the world that the company's future is sunny, despite a few gray clouds of late, presenting the first ever benchmarks for its highly anticipated Barcelona chip, announcing plans for two new core designs, and saying that next-generation manufacturing technologies are proceeding on schedule.

At its annual Technology Analyst Day conference, Randy Allen, vice president of AMD's server and workstation division, did his best to keep alive the notion that Barcelona, the four-core version of the Opteron, would outperform Intel's server offerings. Some AMD naysayers have voiced skepticism ever since last month's announcement that Barcelona would begin shipping in August at a speed of 2 GHz, significantly slower than Intel's Xeon.

So Allen put up a 2.0GHz Barcelona against a 2.33GHz quad-core Xeon in a demo that showed the former chip scoring a 69.5 on the SPEC floating point benchmark, besting the Intel product, which got only 54. That's 25 percent better performance, Allen said, and the advantage rises to 30 percent when measuring by performance per watt.

Allen also said Barcelona will come in three flavors: The 2.0GHz version will be aimed at mainstream users, while a 1.9GHz chip will be offered to power-efficiency freaks. Both will be begin shipping in August. A third, which won't be available until the fourth quarter, is for speed demons, and will offer speeds of 2.3GHz and beyond.

AMD's CTO Phil Hester also unveiled plans for two new CPU cores. One, dubbed Bobcat, will consume 1 to 10 watts and will be aimed at ultra mobile laptops and advanced cell phones. The second is called Bulldozer and will realize gains of 1.3 to 2 times the power per watt efficiency over current AMD chips. It will consume from 10 watts to 100 watts. Both CPU cores will be developed from the ground up.

Bulldozer will find its way into AMD's "Falcon" family, a family based on the company's Fusion design that integrates a CPU and GPU. It will also contain a memory controller, cache and PCIe.

Hester said less about AMD's plans for Bobcat, volunteering only that it would be a family of products that would likely find their way in to digital televisions as well as high-end handsets and ultra mobile PCs.

"More and more so, these consumer devices, whether they're DTVs or handsets, are becoming more software gated," Hester told reporters during a Q&A. "More and more so, there's value in creating a productive software environment."

AMD also sought to reassure customers that it's still very much committed to manufacturing its own chips even if it relies on the same outside fabs to manufacture GPU chips that came with last year's purchase of ATI.

As previously promised, Fab 36 in Dresden, Germany, is now fully converted to 65 nanometer production, is at peak efficiency and is getting more die per wafers than ever before, said Doug Grose, AMD's senior vice president of manufacturing and supply chain management. That's allowing AMD to defer some spending it had previously planned on, although he wouldn't say how much.

Grose also said AMD's roadmap for 45 nanometer production remains on schedule. The company is using immersion lithography for the new process, and resulting defects are comparable to dry lithography. ®

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