AMD hits 5 GHz

So, AMD announced a new 8-core CPU running at 5 GHz this week. It’s a bit of a hollow victory, since it basically will match the highest-end Intel Core i7 in performance, in spite of its much higher clock rate and wattage. I’m not sure what the appeal of a 220-watt CPU is, and I’m also not sure why AMD is giving Intel a few months to respond to it, because I’m sure Intel could create a 5 GHz CPU with a comparable thermal rating to compete against it, given the desire.

Also note this is the design that shares a math unit with each pair of integer cores. For some people, this won’t matter at all, but for others, it can be a deal breaker. It’s part of the reason that AMD has to crank the clock rate so high in order to compete. The problem is that Intel can play this game too. AMD scored major points a decade ago by releasing chips that were much more power efficient than Intel’s power-hungry P4. The resulting war was good for us, since now we’re getting good, fast CPUs that use 20 watts. But Intel is winning that war right now. So that means if AMD wants to play that game, Intel has more headroom to climb. If AMD can deliver 5 GHz at 220 watts, all Intel really has to do is deliver 5.1 GHz at 220 watts.

So AMD is taking a chance here. But I suppose it means that, for a time, they’ll be able to sell some CPUs to people who insist on having the fastest-clocked CPU, whether it really means anything performance-wise or not. And they probably can use the money.

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