Oh, sure, you have the odd exceptions, like a three-disk RAID 5 array or three-way SLI, but these are exceptions, and they are quite literally odd. Even less common is the case of three CPUs. I've been racking my brains for a few days trying to come up with past examples of three-way multiprocessor configurations in PC history, and I've been coming up blank. Now that I've said that, some old-timer will post in the comments about the Univac EP-3333, to which he fed punch cards back in the day. Bully for you, Methuselah, but my point remains: triple-processor configurations are exceptionally rare in the PC world.
They are, however, about to get a whole heckuva lot more common thanks to AMD's new triple-core Phenom X3 processors. These are essentially just quad-core chips with one core disabled, sacrificed for the cause of product segmentation. Can't you just hear millions of tiny transistors screaming out in pain and then going silent? The core-botomy has happy side-effects, though, not least of which is extending the Phenom lineup to under 150 bucks.
The advent of these triple-core specimens raises some intriguing questions. Can AMD gain ground on Intel's very potent dual-core CPUs by disabling a core and slashing its prices? Will the Phenom's relatively low per-core performance be offset by the presence of a third core? What's the right tradeoff here? We've taken these questions as an excuse to run way too many benchmarks on the new Phenom X3 chips. Then we made up some answers. Keep reading to see what we found.