It has been a little over seven months since officials at AMD first discussed their upcoming quad-processing solution with us. Back then details were still pretty hush-hush, all we were told was that their upcoming technology was intended to roll over the competition from Intel, hence the 4x4 codename. Like a real 4x4, this was intended to be a strong performer, only AMD would be relying on two processor sockets to achieve this performance rather than one.
Over the following months, AMD revealed more details on their 4x4 platform, including the fact that 4x4 CPUs would be sold under the high-end FX brand, and that 4x4 CPUs would be sold in pairs, with kits starting “well under $1,000”. AMD also committed to supporting cheaper unbuffered memory and tweakable motherboards that offered a range of HyperTransport speeds and other BIOS options for CPU and memory overclocking. AMD also concocted a new nickname for their 4x4 technology: the quadfather.
Today marks the official introduction of AMD’s quad-processing technology and it is indeed quite a performer under the right situations. Before we get into that though, let’s first discuss why AMD felt now was the time for four processing cores…
Why four cores?
With so few games taking advantage of dual-core processsors, much less four processors, many of you have questioned why AMD’s been targeting 4x4 at hardware enthusiasts and the hardcore gaming crowd.
The reasoning is simple, while it’s true that most of today’s games don’t take advantage of multi-core processing right now, console gaming has accelerated the development of multi-core development. Already there are millions of dual-core CPUs out there in the PC space, and with next-generation consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 boasting multiple processing cores now out on the market, game developers no longer have an excuse not to program their games with multiple threads in mind.
By AMD’s estimates, more than 20 multi-threaded games are set to be released in 2007. This includes multiple genres of gaming as well, from first-person shooters, to RTS and RPG titles, from developers such as BioWare, Crytek, Epic, and Gas Powered Games.
To quote Midway Home Entertainment’s Mark Caldwell:
"Now that AMD is planning a 4-core, multi-socket architecture, we are able to process more gaming threads simultaneously and greatly increase our frame rates as well as lowering the requirements on the OS to allow it to continue processing important system level functions. “With Rise & Fall we saw an improvement of 10 frames per second (FPS) and a 30 percent reduction running the OS on a two-core system, and 15 FPS and more than 75 percent reduction on a four-core system.“
Besides gaming, another usage scenario for 4-cores is what AMD describes as “megatasking”. Megatasking takes multitasking to the next level, as it involves running multiple CPU-intensive tasks at once. An example would be encoding an HD video (or two) while also watching an HD video, or MP3 encoding while also touching up a batch of photos in Photoshop. For those of you who are into MMOs, you could load two instances of the game at once and trade items you’ve collected back and forth between characters, or have one character fighting while the other is healing him.
This is where having four processing cores really shines.
Debuting alongside the new 4x4 CPUs are a new chipset (NVIDIA’s nForce 680a) and a new motherboard based on that chipset (the ASUS L1N64-SLI WS), AMD dubs all this the Quad FX dual socket direct connect platform. Let’s see what’s new with Quad FX…