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With the early arrival of AMD’s new Shanghai processor, right on the heels of Intel’s public unveiling of Nehalem, one has to wonder if we are on the verge of a renewed chip war. There is some interesting background behind each product launch here – Intel rushed to lift the NDA on Nehalem, so reports of the chips prowess could reach the masses before the new CPU was shipping, while AMD pushed the launch of Shanghai from Q1 of 2009 to Q4 of 2008.

While Intel was first to the punch with news of the Core i7 processor, AMD is making sure that Shanghai is available now, giving AMD an advantage. The question is, how will things change once Core i7 is readily available?

In some respects both processors are somewhat vague in their market definitions. For example, Shanghai is poised as the replacement for Barcelona, yet the company is clearly touting Shanghai as a solution for multi CPU servers. Further confusing the issue is that AMD bills Shanghai as delivering on the unfulfilled promises of Barcelona, yet has delivered most of the evaluation units in dual CPU server formats. One has to ask the question, what exactly is Shanghai destined for?

The situation with Nehalem is no better; Intel is clearly positioning as a high performance workstation CPU, yet begs to be compared to a Dual Xeon setup. So, perhaps the most interesting path to follow is to compare Nehalem directly to Shanghai and then decide what fits where best.

Both CPUs introduce new technology from their respective manufacturers. Shanghai brings a 45 nanometer design to AMD, which allows higher clock speeds, reduced energy use and increases the cache size. All of which add up to a dramatic increase in the all too important performance per watt race.

Nehalem on the other hand adds an on-chip power management microcontroller, hyper-threading and three memory channels that support 1,066MHz DDR3, all of which boosts performance and reduces power consumption. Nehalem also sports a new high-speed system bus, Quick Path Interconnect (QPI), which connects the processors to other system components.

While the performance war may teeter-totter back and forth, currently AMD has the advantage – simply by having their product ready to ship, especially in time for the holidays!