Last month Intel introduced its first desktop 6-core CPU, the 32nm Gulftown Core i7 980X. Running at 3.33GHz we loved the fact that it’s quite possibly the first Extreme Edition part that is able to justify its price. For $999 you get six cores and better performance all in the same power envelope as the current high end quad-core i7s.

The 980X is a great chip, but spending $999 on a single component in your PC is a tough sell for most folks. Luckily, AMD is coming out with its own 6-core processors codenamed Thuban. Below is what we know so far about AMD's Thuban lineup (note, the information in the table was not provided by AMD):

AMD 2010 Roadmap
CPU Clock Speed Max Turbo (<= 3 cores) L3 Cache TDP Release
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 6MB 125W Q2
AMD Phenom II X6 1075T 3.0GHz 3.5GHz 6MB 125W Q3
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3.3GHz 6MB 125W/95W Q2
AMD Phenom II X6 1035T 2.6GHz 3.1GHz 6MB 95W Q2
AMD Phenom II X4 960T 3.0GHz 3.4GHz 6MB 95W Q2

Officially branded the Phenom II X6, AMD won’t be launching these processors until some time in the future. But today AMD is disclosing some basic details about the parts. We’re also mixing in our knowledge of internal AMD roadmaps to paint a clear picture of AMD’s 6-core strategy.

The more cores at the same TDP feature that Intel delivers with the 980X, AMD is also promising with Phenom II X6. The difference is that these are still 45nm parts. While we’ll have to test them to be sure, AMD currently indicates that the entire Phenom II X6 lineup will be rated at 95W or 125W TDPs. It’s all manufacturing tricks that make it possible (good job GlobalFoundries). In theory you should be able to buy a Phenom II X6 and have it operate in the same power envelope as a Phenom II X4 965.

With the Thuban cores AMD is introducing its version of Intel’s Turbo Boost technology called Turbo Core. AMD has yet to implement power gating on its processors, so Turbo Core works a little differently than Intel’s Turbo.

Turbo Core kicks in when 3 or more cores (on a 6-core part) are idle. When this happens, the frequency of those three cores is reduced to 800MHz, the voltage to the entire chip is increased, and the remaining three cores are turboed up by as much as 500MHz. It doesn’t get any more granular than this. If you have 3 or more cores idle, then the remaining turbo up. In any other situation the CPU runs at its normal clocks.

The CPU handles all monitoring and does the clock/voltage management itself. The switch to turbo up cores apparently happens fast enough to deal with Windows moving threads around from core to core.

Turbo core is triggered by a deterministic system that is based on load demand and current operating conditions (not temperature).

Cool’n’Quiet is active throughout the turbo process. What actually happens is that when CnQ looks to see if a set of cores should be downclocked, it also has the ability to increase the frequency of other cores.

This isn’t nearly as elegant of a solution as Intel’s turbo. The idle cores are never actually shut off, and voltage to all cores is increased to reach the higher clock speed. However if it works as advertised with no drawbacks (e.g. underclocking 3 cores when you actually still need them) then it’s definitely better than nothing for the Phenom II lineup. AMD will also have quad-core CPUs with turbo core support based on the new Thuban cores.

The great news? All Socket-AM3 and AM2+ motherboards will work with these new Phenom II X6 CPUs with nothing more than a BIOS update. The boards do have to support the TDPs the chips are rated for of course.

Pricing and performance are both unknowns at this point. We’ll keep you posted!

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  • rns.sr71 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    I read early reports(...rumors?) that the HT link speed(and maybe NB) of the desktop hex-cores would be a tad higher than the quads- 2400mhz vs 2000mhz. i know a person can overclock em that much on there own, but if the STOCK speeds are higher on the HT/NB within the same tdp then you're better off. that alone would give a nice and meaningful boost in preformance at the same CORE clock speed.
    has anyone heard any reliable info on this?
    its too bad that denebs(and all variants) NB speeds is so slow and only 64 bits wide- see this link:
    amd needs to fix this with bulldozer. i'd like to see 128 bit wide NB running no slower than whatever the HT link speed will be. maybe 2400-2600mhz.
  • formulav8 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    The Northbridge is still 2ghz. The report about higher NB was on wikipedia and has since been debunked by Hexus I think?? It was some site that apparantly had some internal info.

    I hope they do increase the nb speed of course, but its not very likely.

  • rns.sr71 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    thats lame. NB speed is one thing thats holds back amd cpus right now. it will be even more noticeable with six cores(provided that they are in use) trying to use the NB and the cache. plus any bump of the NB speed, provided it stays within the tdp limit, will help make up for the fact that they didn't increase L3 cache size. they really need to work on the speed.
  • nemetsk - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    It's been years since multi-core was intro'd, and it will still be MANY years until software is properly threaded (read: tailored) for all these cores. When they went multi-core "because they couldn't clock the core any higher" it sounded like a classic cop-out to real innovation. Seriously? Ya know the French are still working on cold fusion.... I hope someone is still working on a single core :)

    My advice: buy a value-priced 2-core cpu and add an ssd.

  • ash9 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    Let me see if I get this right
    Turbo boost---------------- Intel--------AMD
    Activated by------------------ O/S--------CPU
    Cores affected-------------- 2------------ 3
    logically it makes sense that minimum is 3 cores –Asus’s new Phenom II X6 motherboards have “Core Unlocker” suggesting that Phenom II X3 processors derive from X6’s, meaning (logical deduction) that core 3 cpus will be include turbo boost.

    seems logical to me
  • rns.sr71 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    no. Phenom II X3 processors derive from PhenomII x4's- one core disabled. the x6's are a new cpu for the desktop that are drived from a 6 core server cpu.
  • ash9 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    I'm suggesting a core 6X with 3 disabled cores or more

    New Asus Motherboards Unlock Latent AMD CPU Cores

    New M4A89GTD PRO Series motherboards are offered in two versions and the only difference between both almost identical motherboards is the USB 3.0 port support. One of the distinct features of these motherboards is the new Core Unlocker switch that activates up to four latent AMD CPU cores of the AMD's triple-core and quad-core processors. Remember the days when BIOS hack unlocked fourth core in AMD Phenom II X3 processor.

    activates up to four latent AMD CPU -
    the only way to ACTIVATE UP TO 4 LATENT - is if 4 are latent , then you can activate up to 4 cores

    If this 6X design can compete within a reasonable rate to the i7's then why not disable 4 cores for 2X, 3 cores for 3X - hence-activates up to four latent AMD CPU, or unlocking 1 of 4 can activate Tturbo Core.
    After all, 3 cores can be turbo boosted compared to Intel's 2

    deduction my dear Watson
    (I could be wrong, but the logic appears sound, in light of the current information)
  • Schmich - Friday, April 9, 2010 - link

    On one of the slides it says that Turbo CORE works with ALL am3 motherboards. Does that mean that it does NOT work with all am2+ boards?
  • futurepastnow - Saturday, April 10, 2010 - link

    If it doesn't, they've lost a sale from me.
  • spigzone - Monday, April 12, 2010 - link

    All AM2+ boards with an updated Bios?

    Two of my 4 AMD AM2+ motherboards have an Thuban Bios update currently available, two do not. Yet.

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