Dual Core Processors Boost CPU Power

This year will likely see a decided market shift to the newer 64-bit CPU computers. In that arena, AMD is poised to unseat Intel as the CPU of choice for the PC market. In response to (some would say because of) increased competition between AMD and Intel, both companies are looking for ways to eke more speed out of their chips.

Previously we discussed Intel's HyperThreading (a.k.a. HT Technology), a technique to have one CPU behave more like two, allowing multiple programs to run faster than if a PC had only one CPU. Think of how much more a person with two brains could do simultaneously, and you get the idea.

The next logical step is to actually stuff two or more CPU cores into one physical chip. The core of a CPU contains the main processing unit, and essentially is the CPU. The result? AMD claims that even running at a lower clock speed and power level, their dual-core chip will be 25% to 40% faster than their similar chip with only one core. AMD also plans to make their early Opteron dual-core CPUs compatible with existing Opteron computers, allowing an instant speed upgrade for a heavily used, yet recently purchased, server.

The benefits to users? Multiple programs can run without slowing down the entire system. With two "brains" a computer will be able to think in parallel, for example allowing the user to run an anti-spyware scan in the background while continuing to work in other programs - with no perceptible slowdown. Also, higher performance with less components and lower power requirements promise higher reliability and lower cost to consumers. Microsoft plans to license its server software per-processor, not per-core, facilitating inexpensive hardware upgrades without requiring additional software expenses.

October 2004

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