ALTHOUGH SOMEWHAT BEHIND its main competitor, AMD has today revealed its Turbo Core technology that allows for automatic overclocking of CPU cores under the right conditions. It will only apply to AMD’s upcoming Thuban based Phenom II processor, although we’re fairly certain that we’ll see this technology making its way into other product lines from AMD in the future.
What AMD has come up with is something very similar to Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, however it’s not identical. For starters AMD has limited Turbo Core to only work with three cores or less, which can be seen as something of an oversight if you consider that most of the Thuban based Phenom II’s will be six core processors. The six core Phenom II’s will go from six to three cores in Turbo Core mode, while the quad cores will go from four to two cores. AMD doesn’t appear to have any intention of enabling Turbo Core for less than half the core count of any of its CPUs.
Considering that many applications to date aren’t able to use much more than two cores, AMD seems to have implemented Turbo Core in a way that sort of makes sense, although Intel might be faster in single threaded applications, as Turbo Boost can “gear down” to use a single core at higher speeds. There are of course going to be thermal limitations involved here as to how fast the CPU can run with half the cores idle, although AMD claims that Turbo Core “allows enhanced performance at or below the TDP thermal limit”.
Depending on the CPU model, we’ll see boosts of up to 500MHz, although we’ll have to wait for some more details from AMD before we know what kinds of boosts we can expect from the various CPU models. Presumably the expected 95W TDP CPUs should be able to deliver higher clock speeds than the 125W TDP ones, although this is just as assumption for now. It’s also possible that AMD will use this as a selling feature that will make buyers pick one model over another, as the Turbo Core overclock will be higher.
Turbo Core works automatically and there’s no need for any additional software, drivers or utilities to make it work. The fact that Turbo Core works on all AM3 capable motherboards makes this an even better feature; although it’s not guaranteed that some older motherboards will get a BIOS upgrade that supports the new CPUs. At least AMD is showing that it’s committed to its users and older products by offering new features to potentially work on older motherboards, although we’d expect most users that upgrade to a shiny new six core CPU to splash out on a new motherboard at the same time unless they already own a recent model.
We’re not sure how easy it will be for AMD to convince consumers that they need six core CPUs, although we can see a part of the enthusiast community going nuts for some extra cores. Turbo Core does at least give AMD another selling point and it makes the new CPUs slightly more enticing even in situations where not all of the cores are fully utilized. Still, it seems like it’s a little bit too early to push more cores into the consumer market space. Unless you’re editing a lot of HD video content, you might find that the extra cores offer only a limited performance advantage. That will at least hold true until we see more multi-threaded applications that can truly take advantage of more than a couple of CPU cores.S|A
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