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Thursday, 27 March 2008 13:16

AMD's triple treat: the world's first x86 triple-core processor

Although triple-core processors aren’t new, they are in the x86 world, with the launch of the AMD Phenom X3, coupled with the AMD 780G chipset. Is it enough to shake Intel to the core, and what more is in store from AMD?

AMD are billing the combination of the triple-core 64-bit AMD Phenom X3 processor and the AMD 780G series chipset as the ‘ultimate mainstream desktop platform’, although I’m sure we’ll hear what Intel has to say in response at their upcoming Shanghai IDF next week.

AMD says the new processor provides “gamers and digital media enthusiasts with exceptional performance at mainstream price points”, suggesting AMD will continue its long-running price with Intel.

AMD’s claim to benefit fame is that the Phenom X3 has been “designed to improve multi-threaded application performance over dual-core processors at the same clock speed”, bringing “multi-core technology to a broader audience in search of desktop PCs that easily handle today's digital entertainment workloads.”

Of course a processor is nothing without its accompanying recommended chipset, which in this case is the AMD 780G series chipset, which AMD says will, in combination with a Phenom X3 of course, deliver “significant enhancements in gaming and high-definition experiences for mainstream PC customers”, such as “a full HD experience with support for the latest and most demanding formats, including VC-1, MPEG-2 and H.264 on a mainstream PC.” 

AMD are also offering a Unified Video Decoder (UVD), a solution which can “process HD playback on the better-suited GPU rather than the CPU so consumers may enjoy a smooth HD viewing experience-less lag, stalling and dropped scenes-in the latest Blu-ray titles” – and will surely do the same for anyone still hanging onto their now obsolete HD DVD internal players, burners and movies.   

Bob Brewer, AMD’s corporate veep of strategic marketing said: "In 2007, AMD committed to delivering AMD Phenom triple-core processors in Q1 2008 and today the company makes good on that promise. AMD understands that today's PC applications are best accelerated with a range of multi-core products from quad- to triple- to dual-core processors, and that's why we now deliver the broadest multi-core desktop lineup in the industry."

Vista users will be happy to know that the X3 and the 780G chipset offers “DirectX 10 game compatibility, so casual gamers can now enjoy enhanced gaming experience such as truly lifelike 3D graphics and dynamic interactivity in the latest game titles.”

So, what other benefits is AMD spruiking for the X3, along with the processor speeds? Please read onto page 2.

AMD also advises that “gamers looking to scale their performance with the addition of a discrete graphics card can accelerate their performance with ATI Hybrid Graphics Technology”, reminding us all of the reason why AMD purchased ATI.

AMD note that “this technology can harness the graphics power of both an ATI discrete graphics card and the motherboard GPU in tandem, delivering in some applications up to 70 percent improvements in 3D performance. In addition, the AMD 780G chipset is the second generation AMD chipset to feature AMD OverDrive, a simple user interface that brings performance tuning to the masses.”    

AMD's Phenom X3 comes in two flavours, the 8400 running at 2.1Ghz and the 8600 running at 2.3Ghz.

AMD claim both processors "can improve performance over dual-core processors on single-threaded applications and can scale with the same applications that scale with quad-core. AMD Phenom triple-core processors can also increase performance for multitasking usage models and multi-threaded applications, aligned with similar benefits available with AMD Phenom X4 quad-core processors."

AMD will be collaborating with ZT Systems to premiere the first system featuring the new AMD Phenom X3 triple-core processor on QVC during the Computer Shop broadcast, which is scheduled to air March 31 at 10 p.m. EDT.

Russell Carlisle, VP of Marketing, ZT Systems said that: “New ZT Affinity desktops featuring the AMD Phenom X3 8400 triple-core processor deliver ‘The Latest Technology for Less,’ empowering a broader range of customers to experience the performance and multi-tasking capability of true multi-core technology. The ZT Affinity 5202Zi is a perfect fit for consumers looking for a stylish, affordable compact PC with the power they need for today’s cutting-edge digital entertainment.”

So, what happened to the pricing? AMD has indicated where pricing details are available, but when we went to check... they're not listed. Please read onto page 3.

The two processors will soon start becoming available from “leading OEMs and system builders”, and while pricing hasn’t been specified in their press materials, AMD advise that more details are available at AMD’s pricing page on its website

That said, we checked AMD's pricing site, and oddly, no pricing for Phenom X3 processors is yet listed - only pricing for the Phenom X4. No doubt pricing will be released soon.

On that note, AMD have also launched the AMD Phenom X4, a ‘true’ quad-core processor that, unlike initial quad-core processors that have been on the market for some time, truly link four cores together on the same processor die, rather than just sticking two dual-core processors together.

For more information on the AMD Phenom X4, please see iTWire's follow up article, "AMD puts four to the floor with Phenom X4 quad-core."

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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