We were unable to show you much in our first Comdex report, which is why we wanted to go back and give you more details. The RADEON 9500 PRO launch and the Thanksgiving holiday all fell within a week of our return from Vegas so we were unable to sit down and look over our notes in more detail until now. The following is a wrap of everything else that took place that week; we hope you enjoy it!
First things first, it was readily apparent that AMDís ďHammerĒ line of CPUs is delayed, not due to infrastructure problems, but AMD is responsible for the holdup themselves. Practically every motherboard manufacturer that was present in Las Vegas had their Hammer motherboards on display, the only exception being ABIT. In fact, some manufacturers had multiple lines of Hammer boards available, some with VIA chipsets, others using AMDís Hammer chipset. FIC was even demonstrating small form factor systems based on AMDís Hammer platform!
AMD's CPU roadmap
FIC's small form factor Hammer PC
And in case you were wondering, these were fully functional products, not units for show. AMD literally had several demonstration units shut down once they learned that motherboard manufacturers were displaying live Hammer demonstrations for onlookers. AMD never caught SiSí Hammer demonstration system however, at least they hadnít when we visited their suite on Wednesday.
The motherboard manufacturers were more than happy to tell us that their Hammer products were ready to enter full production; they were simply waiting on AMD to launch the processor. So if Comdex 2002 is any indication, the K8 launch should go considerably smoother than the K7 launch three years ago from an infrastructure perspective. Only a handful of manufacturers were willing to jump on the Athlon platform when it was initially launched in 1999.
As far as we can tell, the main holdup for Hammer appears to be clock speeds. The demonstration units most of the motherboard manufacturers were running were limited to 1.4GHz. AMD is shooting for a clock speed of 2GHz for Hammer, so it appears theyíre still shy of that goal. AMD did announce the name for the desktop variant of Hammer Ė Athlon 64. However, Microsoft still hasnít firmly committed to providing a 64-bit version of Windows upon Hammerís launch, but we do know that itís in the works.
AMD and Epic demonstrated a 64-bit version of Unreal Tournament 2003, which is a big endorsement of AMDís 64-bit technology. The Unreal engine itís based on will power many upcoming games that will be released next year, so AMD must be excited about the early adoption potential among gamers.
Of course, even if AMDís 64-bit technology is slow to take off, Hammer will still outperform AMDís current Athlon processors based on the K7 core in 32-bit applications, in part thanks to its integrated memory controller.
Speaking of the memory controller, AMD executives stated that they will not have a problem updating the controller to support the latest memory technologies as they become available. They did specify that they plan to stick with JEDEC approved standards rather than supporting the incremental speed grades that will be released over the course of next year.