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Barcelona Opterons not very powerful, in a good way

Last week, TechReport.com released the first thorough review of AMD’s Barcelona two-way quad-core CPUs, including a comparison with Intel’s Clovertown chips. In terms of absolute performance, they conclude:

Barcelona’s gains in performance per clock aren’t quite what we expected, especially in floating-point-intensive applications like 3D rendering, where it looks for all the world like a quad-core K8. As a result, Barcelona is sometimes faster, sometimes slower, and oftentimes the equal of Intel’s Core microarchitecture, MHz for MHz.

That’s bad news for AMD, considering 1) the current top clock-speed option is 2/3 of Intel’s, and 2) they’re more than a year behind Intel in manufacturing technology (Intel’s 45nm Penryn quad-core chips are just around the corner). However:

…power-efficient performance is the new key to processors, especially in the server space. By that standard, AMD now has the lead. By any measure—and we have several, including idle power, peak power, and a couple of energy use metrics—the quad-core Opterons trump Intel’s quad-core Xeons.

As predicted in a recent post by insideHPC.com, the Xeon platform’s FB-DIMM memory consumption seems to be the major factor holding it back compared to Barcelona, as well as Xeon’s comparatively high power drain at idle. Any way you look at the findings, it should be nice as a consumer to know that the CPU market remains highly competitive.

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