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Intel – Putting the Hurt on AMD

Core DuoThe pre-release benchmarks and rumors about Intel’s (INTC) new architecture are holding firm now that the silicon has seen official release.

Two independent reviewers have written opinions about the new Intel Core processors (see below)… both were previously solid AMD (AMD) supporters.

Intel has now seized a commanding lead in performance desktop processors. This is in addition to the spectacular technical success of Woodcrest in Server space – where AMD has caused the most financial damage.

The R&D guys have done their job and I think a reversal of market share loss in the server space is a slam dunk at this point. Putting more performance per watt into server processors directly translates into market share success. That’s pretty well accepted.

What remains to be seen is whether pure performance matters for the desktop world anymore. Knowing the clock speed of a CPU used to be a point of pride, much like the owner of a 60’s or 70’s era car could rattle off the displacement of the engine. Recently, CPU computing power has far outstripped a user’s capacity to consume it (outside of gaming and a few other applications).

Just as high capacity broadband (>10 Mbs) needs a killer app (no not bittorrent, something that is legal), Intel needs a new application that makes CPU power matter again. Otherwise, I think it’s going to come down to financials and which of the two companies can better survive a protracted pricing war. Rumors of the conflict were plentiful, but now we have hard pricing and performance data to evaluate. Standby for ‘Shock and Awe’

From ZDNet:

It’s noteworthy that the C2D E6600 2.4 GHz dual core Conroe which has a list price of $316 is able to beat the fastest AMD AM2-based FX-62 processor which costs around $1000. There have been rumors of large price drops on AMD processors but it will be interesting to see what AMD’s response will be.

Unfortunately there is only one option available to AMD.

Intel is really two separate businesses. A fabless R&D company that makes chips and a massive capital investment operations business (like an oil refiner or mining operation) that builds and operates fabs.

The desktop battle was being fought by who can better operate the refinery. The server war is being fought by running the better R&D operation. The bottom line is Intel’s problems have been with the first, not the second business. And those problems appear to be on the mend.

In the meantime, it is refreshing to see a company as large as Intel bury an antiquated architecture and start fresh due to the threat of competition. For a corollary story, read todays article in the WSJ about what happened to Airbus when they refused to break the mold for the A350.

Intel beat AMD not just through a better processor, but by controlling both the CPU and the chipsets surrounding it. Intel’s move into motherboard chipsets was easily the best new business they have entered in the last decade. This is the likely reason AMD is talking with ATI (ATYT) about an acquisition – AMD realizes they need to control the PC hardware ecosystem more effectively.

Review Excerpts:

AnandTech – Intel’s Core 2 Extreme & Core 2 Duo: The Empire Strikes Back

The architecture is called Core, processor family is Core 2, the product names are Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme. In the past we’ve talked about its architecture and even previewed its performance, but today is the real deal. We’ve all been waiting for this day, the day Intel lifts the last remaining curtain on the chip that is designed to re-take the performance crown from AMD, to return Intel to its days of glory.

… what you see before you is not the power hungry, poor performing, non-competitive garbage (sorry guys, it’s the truth) that Intel has been shoving down our throats for the greater part of the past 5 years. No, you’re instead looking at the most impressive piece of silicon the world has ever seen, at the fastest desktop processor we’ve ever tested.

Tom’s Hardware Guide – Game Over? Core 2 Duo Knocks Out Athlon 64

First of all let me sort the facts: As soon as Core 2 Duo hits the market, it will…

* be the fastest x86 processor (both single and dual core models)
* make the Pentium D and all predecessors look like antiques
* be the clear choice for performance users despite its rather expensive price
* outperform the complete Athlon 64 family (X2 and FX) in all areas, including gaming, where AMD has traditionally been very strong
* consume less energy than other standard desktop processors
* transform the whole Intel platform from an energy-hungry beast to a reasonable solution that is competitive in terms of performance per Watt

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