Two heads are better than one

Developed with the intent to take performance to the next level, AMD and Intel have both unleashed dual-core processors for the masses.

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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  April 28, 2005

AMD and Intel have this month both released dual-core processors for desktop machines and servers with the express aim of boosting overall system performance and their respective market shares. To differentiate between the older single and newer dual-core processors, both companies have graced their creations with new naming schemes. Intel for instance has named its dual-core consumer CPUs ‘Pentium D’, while the older single-core parts will still retain the ‘Pentium 4’ name. AMD on the other hand will call all its dual-core consumer chips ‘Athlon 64 X2’. While both CPUs are 64-bit ready and are otherwise unchanged from their older brothers, Intel’s Pentium D chips will lack the company’s hyperthreading technology, which creates a virtual processor for multi-threaded software to take advantage of. Although AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 processors will work with all existing Socket 939 motherboards with merely a BIOS update, those looking to adopt the newer ‘D’ chip processors from Intel will have to shop for a new motherboard that features a dual-core ready chipset. To that end, Intel has already begun shipping off its own 955X chipset to motherboard manufacturers. Vendors such as Foxconn and MSI are among the first to have their products out the door and on their way to stores in the region. A dual-core CPU combines two independent processors, and their respective caches and cache controllers, onto a single silicon die. While this effectively means even more circuitry will find its way into a single CPU die, both AMD and Intel have managed to keep the die size from increasing drastically and forcing yet another new CPU socket. Although dual-core processors certainly seem like they will deliver superior performance over their older counterparts, applications and games will have to be coded specifically with multi-threading in mind for any performance advantage to become readily apparent. Multi-threaded software is essentially developed to execute two ore more concurrent threads (operations) at a time. However, if software is coded to execute only a single thread at a time, users will never reap the benefits of dual-core CPUs. ITP.net contacted both AMD and Intel to find out about availability and was told reasonable quantities would only start flowing into the region by the middle of next month. IBM and Motorola are also feverishly working away on their own dual-core chips, though these processors won’t be available in stores for everyday consumers.

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