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11/30/2006
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The Quad-Core War Begins: AMD Launches Quad FX

AMD's dual-socket, multicore desktop platform is designed to take full advantage of Microsoft's Windows Vista, which also officially launched on Thursday.

The Quad Core wars have begun. Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday launched its Quad FX platform, a direct response to an earlier quad-core processor released by rival Intel.

AMD's dual-socket, multicore desktop platform is designed to take full advantage of Microsoft's Windows Vista, which also officially launched on Thursday. What has analysts talking, though, is the platform's performance for what they're calling megataskers—people who run multiple high-performance and power sucking applications at the same time.

The platform will compete with Intel's recently released quad-core processor for the desktop. Intel has a leg up in terms of being first to come out with quad-core processors; this is AMD's initial foray into the market.

Dan Olds, a principal with the Gabriel Consulting Group, called the Quad FX platform a stop-gap for AMD, enabling the company to get a product out right now for the computing enthusiast market. The real native quad-core x86 release, which is slated to ship in mid-2007, will be the company's real quad-core push. It will be aimed at the general server market.

"Quad FX isn't just for gaming," says Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. "It really hits to the heart of the next generation of power users. These people aren't just running one big application, but several. The Quad FX platform is incredibly powerful. I've got one myself, and it's an impressive box."

Megataskers, explained Enderle, are the scientists and floor traders who are running power-hungry applications. But they also include average users who want to handle e-mail while working on a spreadsheet and playing music online and watching a streaming video feed. "I want to have fun, but I still have my own deadlines," Enderle says. "In the downtime between games and battles, I'm doing my work. And now I've got the power so I might as well."

The Quad FX platform runs pairs of the AMD Athlon 64 FX-70 series dual-core processors. John Fruehe, worldwide business development manager for AMD Opteron, says the new platform has two separate sockets for two separate dual-core processors. That's compared to Intel's quad-core approach, which runs two processors in the same socket.

According to Enderle, at this point Intel still has the performance advantage when it comes to quad-core on the desktop. "Depending on the configuration, Intel can have as much as a 10% to 15% performance advantage on the high-end, but it comes at a premium," he says. "The Intel part is faster but a lot more expensive, at least for now."

Pricing for pairs of the AMD Athlon 64 FX-70, FX-72 and FX-74 dual-core processors is $599, $799, and $999 respectively, according to AMD.

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