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By | Ashlee Vance 19th September 2007 07:22

Fresh Xeon to rough up twittering Opteron

War breaks out between imaginary chips

IDF Intel has given up on anything resembling restraint with its latest round of AMD bashing.

During the Intel Developer Forum, executives pounded away on AMD's new four-core Opteron (Barcelona) chip. Intel plans to beat Barcelona on every benchmark with the release of its four-core Xeon (Harpertown) in the fourth quarter. And by "every benchmark," Intel means every benchmark, including AMD's stronghold with floating point-heavy measurements.

Harpertown fits into the "Penryn" family of chips built with Intel's new 45nm process. The high-end Xeon with 820m transistors and 12MB of cache will replace today's four-core Clovertown chips with 582m transistors and 8MB of cache.

Intel compared a 3.20GHz Harpertown-based system with a 1600MHz front side bus against a 2.5GHz four-core Opteron-based system on the SPECfp benchmark and found – you guessed it – that the Harpertown box beat the Opteron system by 4 per cent. That's kinda brutal since floating point has been AMD's stronghold. (The four-core Opteron crushes Intel's current four-core chip by 35 per cent on the same benchmark.)

The really bad news for AMD is that Intel will ship Harpertown on Nov. 12.

Of course, Intel is running benchmarks with a pair of unreleased chips (the 2.5GHz Opteron isn't out yet), and we're talking about, er, benchmarks which often have little to do with reality.

That said, Gelsinger bragged that on other benchmarks Harpertown will beat out Barcelona by "10, 30 and 100 per cent."

Then, in 2009, Intel will refresh its architecture with the "Nehalem" family of chips, introduce integrated memory controllers and ship QuickPath – Intel's copy of AMD's Hypertransport. As Gelsinger tells it, Intel will obliterate any benchmark that dares face these chips.

"You will see enormous leaps (in performance)," Gelsinger said.

The Nehalem chips should have 3X the memory bandwidth of the top chips available today from both Intel and AMD.

The Nehalem chips will stretch up to eight cores with support for up to 16 software threads via Intel's implementation of simultaneous multi-threading. Intel also looks set to ship two and four-core versions of these chips, according to slides put up during IDF.

AMD tried to counter Intel's announcements via its new Twitter feed. For example, it mocked Intel's demonstration of a working Nehalem-based computer that spoke during an IDF session by Twittering, "It's fun that Nehalem ran XP & said 'hi.' Quad-Core AMD Opteron says 'Hi back, please stop mimicking me.'"

Earlier, AMD fired off another Twitter where the 140 character limit thwarted its marketing muscle. "Want to learn more about AMD's Triple Core? Hear it from the source, not to mention what industry analysts like Jim McGregor think: http."

You'll have to guess where that link was meant to lead.

We're thinking it might be best to return to e-mail and complete thoughts. ®

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