AMD knows that we're impatiently waiting for some traction on Fusion. And while we expect to see its first notebook-oriented Fusion-based processors featured in actual products at CES, we're still a ways away from seeing the technology in action on the desktop.
In the meantime, AMD is trying to tide us over with a steady stream of frequency bumps. It seems like that has been the case for a while now, but as the company improves its 45 nm manufacturing process, it's able to reliably get incrementally more headroom to boost performance--even if it's only bit by bit. This strategy isn’t viable long term, of course, especially in the face of Sandy Bridge launching in January at CES, aiming for the same mainstream market. It tided the company over in 2010, though, allowing it to offer excellent prices on processors that performed very well, despite Intel's lock on the high-end segment.
Perhaps the best part of this approach is that, every time AMD introduced a new model over the last year, the faster processors have adopted the MSRP of the models they replace. This time is no different, and the result is a wave of price drops dribbling down the Athlon II and Phenom II product lines.
Once Sandy Bridge hits, AMD is going to have a hard time leaning on its current approach. We're simply expecting too much pressure on its higher-end models from Intel's LGA 1155 lineup. For now, the Athlon II and Phenom II processors remain viable options for enthusiasts looking for plenty of performance without dropping a lot of cash. Remember, we still don't have official pricing on the Sandy Bridge parts, so it could turn out that AMD retains its value proposition moving into 2011.
This time around, AMD is refreshing the Athlon II X3, Phenom II X2, and Phenom II X6 families. Even the Thuban-based six-core X6 can overclock up to 4 GHz relatively easily. So, it's not a stretch to expect another speed bump or two from some of AMD's lower-clocked parts as we traverse through the next year, even once Bulldozer-based parts start shipping.
Knowing that day is coming, is it worth sinking money into a new Socket AM3 platform now? Both Intel and AMD are gearing up for a next-generation battle, after all. Let's take a closer look.