It wasnít long ago that we were previewing AMDís Opteron 875 at 2.2 GHz and wondering how the desktop version of the chip, already known as the Athlon 64 X2 would perform. After all, initial word from AMD indicated that the X2 would debut at 2.4 GHz--faster than the Opteron and nearly on par with todayís single-core Athlon 64 FX-55.
Fortunately, we didnít have to wait long. AMD maintains that it isnít officially launching the Athlon 64 X2 family until sometime in June; however, itís more than happy to provide a sneak peak at the hardware to tide us over for the next month. Could it be that AMDís worried about Intelís aggressive dual-core price structure? Thereís little reason to be. Announced more than a month ago, thereís still no evidence of a boxed dual-core product from the Pentium D or Extreme Edition families. In fact, the only readily available dual-core hardware currently selling is AMDís Opteron 800-series.
The Athlon 64 X2
We can nevertheless understand AMDís urgency. Whereas the server and workstation markets stand to benefit immediately from threaded software, Intel is effectively getting the word out that dual-core will improve multi-tasking performance on the desktop as well, even when youíre talking about single-threaded programs. AMD wants in on the action and is ready to position its dual-core Athlon 64 X2 in what it calls the prosumer (proactive/professional/prosperous consumer?) and digital media segments populated by sophisticated power users and content creation enthusiasts.
Availability is the sticking point. Donít expect an encore to the wonderfully executed Opteron launch last month. This time around AMD is pre-announcing its product, launching sometime in June, delivering availability to system builders in the third quarter, and enabling retail availability sometime later. The road to dual-core will be an arduous one littered with temptation (thereís an Athlon 64 FX update coming later this year), competition (those dual-core Pentium Dís sure are priced to move), and financial hardship ($1,001 for an Athlon 64 X2 4800+? Ouch!). Letís see if the nail-baiting is justified.