AMD speeds up single-core gaming chip

AMD's still cranking out single-core processors for gamers with the launch of the new FX-57 Monday.

While dual-core processors have received the most attention this year, sometimes a single-core processor is the right tool for the job, according to AMD.

The company is expected to release its fastest single-core processor today with the launch of the Athlon 64 FX-57, a high-end chip targeted at gamers.

The chip ran at 2.8GHz, a 200MHz increase in clock speed over the FX-55, which AMD would continue to sell for now, product marketing manager for the Athlon 64 product line, Jonathan Seckler, said.

Both AMD and Intel sell high-end desktop processors that are very expensive and very powerful. AMD uses the Athlon 64 FX label for these chips, while Intel brands them the Pentium Extreme Edition. Neither company sells very many of these chips compared to sales of their mainstream desktop processors, but some users, such as gamers, are willing to pay whatever it takes to get the highest level of performance.

The two companies have different strategies on how to reach this market. Intel is moving its consumer PC customers to dual-core processors, such as the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 and Pentium D processors introduced earlier this year.

Dual-core processors consist of two separate processing engines on one piece of silicon. They allow chipmakers to improve performance without having to increase the speed of their chips, which produces extra heat.

AMD has introduced dual-core chips for mainstream PCs with the launch of the Athlon 64 X2 processors. But it is preserving the single-core design of the FX line of chips for at least another six months as it evaluates the gaming market for dual-core technology, Seckler said.

Most current games were single-threaded applications, and do not see any benefit from a dual-core design, Seckler said.

PC users who were running several applications at once, or using complex multimedia software, did benefit from the ability of dual-core chips to dedicate a processing engine to separate applications, he said.

But for most gamers, the only application running during gameplay was the game itself, he said.

Eventually, the gaming industry will start to produce more multithreaded games, and AMD will introduce dual-core processors into the FX line-up.

The FX chips were very similar to the company's Opteron processors for one-way servers, so it would not be very difficult to adapt the forthcoming dual-core Opteron 100 series for PCs, Seckler said.

AMD predicts that switch will take place some time next year.

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Tom Krazit

IDG News Service
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