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December 2, 2006

AMD in trouble with Quad FX

I’m a long time AMD fan, but they seem to be having difficulties making a case for their new Quad FX CPU platform. George Ou explains in AMD Quad FX slaughtered by a single Intel CPU:

All the reviews are in for AMD’s new “4×4″ Quad FX dual CPU platform and it loses nearly every single real world benchmark to a single Intel CPU while consuming more than twice the electricity.  We basically see two FX-74 3.0 GHz processors getting slaughtered by a single Intel QX6700 2.66 GHz quad core processor!  Ironically, three of the four benchmark sites I link to give such contradictory glowing conclusions for the Quad FX in spite of their own data showing AMD being slaughter that Baghdad Bob would be proud.  Here are the four reviews of which only TomsHardware had a realistic conclusion that matched their actual data.

From highly optimized multi-core applications like 3D rendering and Video encoding to single threaded applications like games the AMD Quad FX either lost by a little or it lost by a lot. 

The bottom line is that AMD has delivered a Frankenstein of a solution that guzzles a ton of power while delivering inferior performance.  I just don’t know of any other way to describe the AMD Quad FX platform.  While AMD has superficially (not on a clock-for-clock or overclocking potential basis) closed some of the performance gap, there is just no way for any sensible person other than diehard AMD fans to love the Quad FX.

For a dissenting opinion, refer to Charlie Demerjian’s article at the Inquirer:

AMD Quad FX is finally here, and the easy questions about what it is have been answered. The tricky questions are why you would want one, and what for.

If your application plays to the strengths of Intel, well Kentsfield will absolutely clobber AMD. Games and older single threaded apps are good examples of this, and they will be the predominant type of software for much of 2007. If you have things that need heavy memory access, FP laden work is a good example, or your games actually utilize multiple cores effectively, well AMD will trounce Intel. It all boils down to what software do you use and how do you use it?

Most people compare the QFX machines to Kentsfield as simple gaming boxes, and this is wrong. You can do it, and there is nothing technically incorrect, but that is not what AMD has been promising for this machine. People have been assuming since it was first announced that it would be the killer gaming rig, but that is simply not the case.

Having been at the initial coming out party over the summer, AMD was very clear that QFX was about doing more at the same time on a single box, they use the term megatasking. Basically, the AMD architecture is much better suited to doing many different tasks at once. There is no single bottleneck to force all the data through, so one core can utilize many more parts of the system without interfering with the other cores.

The down side to all of this is they lack the peak single threaded horsepower of a Kentsfield core, and will lag on apps that don’t need all that bandwidth. Basically take your pick of what you are going to run, a single game, or a few instances of an MMO, MP3s in the background, and maybe a game server. That more than anything will determine what you should buy.

Fair enough, but that market seems rather esoteric, at least today. I guess the bottom line is that you shouldn’t be buying a Quad FX unless you know exactly why it’s a good choice.

Posted at 9:59 am. Filed under AMD, Brands, Companies, Microprocessors, Quad FX

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