AMD's Six-Core Thubans Reportedly Launching In April

If current rumors are to be believed, AMD's hexa-core Thuban processors are headed for desktops in the near future. First we'll see the new 890GX chipsets launching in March, with three Thuban models following on April 26. The new desktop processors will reportedly come in three flavors: Phenom II X6 1035T, 1055T, and the 1075T. We've got no idea what the numbers are supposed to represent in this case; drop a comment below if you've got a theory.

Thuban, like Phenom II, will be backwards-compatible and can drop into AM3/AM2+/AM2 boards if your motherboard manufacturer provides an appropriate BIOS update. This last has proven a bit sketchy in my own personal experience. Some motherboard manufacturers have proven more willing to provide the necessary updates than others. Hopefully the various OEMs will do the right thing on this one. Several years ago, AMD's high-end first-generation Phenom processors required boards that could handle a TDP of 125-140W. Anyone with such a board should have no problems upgrading to a hexa-core processor.

The other bit of news on Thuban is that AMD will introduce a Turbo Boost-like technology that overclocks certain cores to improve performance while shutting down unnecessary cores to reduce power consumption. We don't know yet exactly how the feature will work (or what performance levels it will allow Thuban to reach), but with six cores on a 45nm process it's safe to bet that turning a few of them off gives the company a significant reservoir of power to work with.

AMD's roadmap of multi-core CPUs

We expect AMD to price Thuban aggressively against quad-core Core i7/Core i5 processors. While the typical real-world benefits of having six cores are debatable to say the least, the fact that AMD has six physical cores competing against the quad-core Nehalem w/Hyper Threading should work to Sunnyvale's advantage. Whether or not it'll be enough to overcome the performance-per-clock disparity between Intel and AMD, however, remains to be seen.  At present, AMD's Istanbul server Opterons top out at 2.8GHz with a TDP of 105W. The new enthusiast/desktop processors will probably follow a similar pattern; we're betting on a 2.4GHz-2.8GHz spread with all six cores enabled. Factor in AMD's Turbo Boost (whatever they end up calling it) and we might see top-end speeds at 3.2-3.4GHz depending on yields. Those of you who want low power and parallel processing will have to wait a bit, but you'll probably get a cookie. AMD already has a hexa-core 40W chip at 1.8GHz; odds are reasonable that we'll see an ultra-low-power desktop equivalent before the summer is out.