AMD has chosen a little known event, on the fringes of mainstream obscurity, to announce big x86 processor breakthroughs and Microsoft a definition of the hardware, powering its new, XBOX 360 Slim.
The annual Hot Chips event, to be held at Stanford University in August, will detail two new AMD chips that constitute the microchip giant's most radical x86 architectural shift in a very long time. The aptly named Bulldozer and its gentler sibling, the Bobcat will have their innards exposed during the conference when AMD makes its last stand in its fight for CPU dominance.
The "mighty" Bulldozer will be the company's first to use its multithreaded x86 engines. The innovations offered are the sharing of branch prediction and the fetching of units in- or out-of-order, allowing it to issue four instructions per clock cycle.
Industry experts claim these changes are so radical that they will shape AMDs future as far as its competition with Intel goes. The comparison made by hardware experts is that of the shift from K5 to K6 although not enough is yet known about these radical changes to offer insights into the company's future.
What is known is that the Bulldozer chip will be a high performance core, merging the capabilities of two x86 cores into a single silicon block. It will sport two separate integer units with discrete L1 and L2 caches, with the cores sharing an L3 cache and an enhanced floating point unit. According to AMD, this will be the first x86 chip to host dedicated hardware for supporting floating point units that receive instruction from two 128-bit floating point multiply accumulate (FMAC) units.
The Bobcat will enter the fray for notebook dominance and when AMD first produced technical stats for it it was said to be able to deliver 90% of the day's notebook power at half its CPU size. This means that the chip can perform its functions at 2W although for most tasks it would not need more than 1W. All this was, of course, valid at the time of those statements, made at the end of 2009. Although power consumption is unlikely to change, the performance and size comparisons are probably less valid today.
XBOX 360 Slim - Inside Out
The Hot Chips event which is more of a tech-head conference than a media show, will also feature the unveiling of the heart and soul of Microsoft's new XBOX 360 Slim.
Thanks to the restless hands of gamers, some of the new consoles have been opened and their entrails examined and the fledgling electronics engineers have been able to use those entrails to paint a picture of the future. According to gamers that have been through the process, the chip powering the XBOX 360 Slim, features a CPU, GPU and eDRAM on a single die. This would explain the much lower decibels produced by the console as cooling is now a much "easier" task, a feat achieved by managing to cool all parts with one heatsink and fan assembly.
So how close are the entrails reading gamers to the truth? Very close, in fact, as Microsoft is prepping to release details, it has become clear that the new CGPU, as MS calls it, features multiple PowerPC cores, AMD graphics cores and eDRAM all on a single die. Built at a rumored 45nm, the new chip promises to get rid of that constant hum your brain worked so hard to cancel out.
More details on both AMDs and Microsoft's announcements are expected on the run up to the Hot Chips event in August.