Quad Father Incarnate
Next we learned a bit about the hardware that is coming in support of 4x4 and NVIDIA is, surprisingly perhaps, leading the charge, rather than an ATI-built chipset. Of course this architecture has been in the works for a very long time, so NVIDIA is not as much of a surprise really, given their long history with the nForce series of chipsets for AMD.
Though specific chipset branding and details are sparse, we did get the following information across the wire from AMD recently and were given clearance to show you the specifics of what the first 4x4 enabled motherboards will offer in terms of feature set.
A bit of simple mathematics will tell you that the board pictured in this slide (we believe to be an Asus-built product) has no less that 48 lanes of PCI Express connectivity brought out to its four full-length X16 PCIe slots. This will provide a ton of room for expansion for not only graphics but other technologies like PCI Express RAID cards for example. Also note the 12 X 3G SATA ports -- holy RAID Batman.
On a side note, unlike multi-core Opteron implementations of the past, 4x4 will requires only standard DDR2 DIMMs rather than more costly registered DIMM memory.
At the Digital Life show in NY, Alienware also had their 4x4 system on display and it was impressive to say the least.
We're certain that Alienware will most likely be updating their system specs with something new, in the form of GPU horsepower, in the very near future as well.
Finally, both AMD and Alienware had the very same demonstration loaded up on their 4x4 system as is pictured here in this slide. Specifically the machines had two instances of City of Heroes running, two HD video streams playing, including a Battlefield 2142 trailer, and a video conversion going on, all at the same time. As you can see all four cores are pegged at 100% utilization but in fact there was plenty of horsepower left to navigate around Windows XP and launch other applications. AMD is citing that more than 20 mutli-threaded game titles are targeted for release in 2007. We'd offer that is even perhaps a bit conservative, as without question the world has now officially gone multi-core, whether you consider the developer or end user community.
In short, it seems as though AMD, if they are behind Intel at all in the quad-core race, they're right on the heels of Kentsfield. The big question is how will all this new technology perform and how much will it cost. Undoubtedly, AMD's 4x4 architecture, at least on the surface, with its dual socket design, looks to be more costly, at very least from a motherboard perspective but that remains to be seen. As for the numbers, stay tuned here to HH and we'll be bringing those into focus as well in the weeks ahead.