Intel may very well go down in history as the first processor manufacturer with a desktop dual-core solution, if only by three days. Its Pentium Extreme Edition 840, which we previewed
in early April, may not be widely available as an add-in part; however, Dell is already selling workstation systems that center on the chip. When the do-it-yourself community will see any of these processors is anyoneís guess, though.
Thatís of seemingly little consequence to AMD. Rather than target the desktop workspace with dual-core, itís going after the same market that originally embraced Opteron--servers and high-end workstations. Thereís quite a bit of chest-thumping going on the AMD camp, partly because it feels that the real market for dual-core is that higher-end of the spectrum and partly because AMDís architecture seems much better suited for multiple processing cores interacting with each other. Indeed, Pat Patla, director of server and workstation marketing at AMD is quick to point out that right from the inception of its design, Opteron was designed to accommodate dual-core processing. Of course, a lot of people seem to forget that at the end of the day, it doesnít matter who has the more elegant implementation. Itís the better performer that will take home the accolades.
Fortunately, todayís announcement and release of the AMD Opteron 100-, 200-, and 800-series of dual-core processors gives us a much clearer picture of who will be faster (in addition to whose implementation is prettiest, if that matters to you). We have at our disposal Intelís Pentium Extreme Edition 840, at 3.2GHz, which was previously previewed, AMDís Athlon 64 FX-55, the current performance champ in a majority of gaming environments, AMDís Opteron 252, a 2.6GHz equivalent to the FX constrained to registered memory and a 940-pin interface, and the Opteron 875, a production dual-core sample running at 2.2GHz and priced in excess of its weight in gold. It doesnít have the same residual value but, well, thatís another matter entirelyÖ
On a side note, both Intel and AMD lament the fact that the other announces product well ahead of availability, but itís interesting to note that they continue to do the same thing themselves. Intel is skirting the problem to some degree by making a select number of Extreme Edition processors available to Dell at excruciatingly high prices, while AMD releases the dual-core Opteron and announces its desktop lineup with an anticipated ship date months away. Opteron systems should be available at launch from preferred system builders, such as HP, but the white box folks wonít have much. Neither company is innocent here; and we should all bear in mind that dual-core is much rarer in the wild than the flood of previews would indicate.