AMD Athlon 64 Rev F Update: DDR2 and Socket M2?
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Is there DDR2 in AMD's Future?
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of information coming out about AMD's future plans for memory support in the Athlon 64 processor line up and about a possible socket change. I have had several readers email me "facts" they had read on other websites, or heard in some forums, asking if any of it was true. Having no direct knowledge of the validity of any of it from AMD or anyone else, I decided to do a little research and compile a list of the facts and information here.
The Inquirer reported back in December of 2004 that AMD motherboard partners were looking at making a change to the socket for dual core processors, which of course turned out not to be the case.
Even more recently, we saw a post on CoolTechZone that said that AMD was thinking of skipping DDR2 memory completely, and going from DDR straight to DDR3. Is it possible that AMD is again going to take the road less traveled and attempt another one-upping of Intel's technology decisions? Then today, from the same source, information on AMD moving their current DDR support up to speeds of DDR500. While there is no standard for DDR500 from JEDEC, it is entirely possible that AMD would or could have already implemented this in their latest "Venice" core processors.
We're also beginning to see more regarding an upcoming socket change for AMD processors, as was pointed out here at The Inquirer. The website that is referenced by The Inquirer shows a Socket M2 with 1207 pins on it and has a surprisingly detailed roadmap for the current generation single core and dual core parts. While looking at this site prior to the dual-core release, I noted the information that was on the site was right on par with what we saw released by AMD just last week. On that site as well, they list all of the M2 processors as supporting DDR2-667.
Online media site Xbit labs has also discussed the possibility of the M2 socket in some detail. Computerbb.org mentions both the new M2 core for desktop as well as for the mobile segment, bringing dual core and DDR2-667 to the Turion lineup. The same mobile parts are discussed at The Inquirer again. Finally, this article, though not in English, shows a good roadmap that lists BOTH DDR2-667 support and a new M2 socket.
Is there something to all this? I wasn't so sure, as AMD hasn't shared anything with me that isn't publicly available, but then I got a document in my email that shedded some new light on the validity of these claims.
An Athlon 64 Rev F Diagram
The below picture is a cut and paste directly from the document that fell in my lap.
We can see from the image that this is a dual core product that uses nearly the same basic design as the current Athlon 64s and Athlon 64 X2s. The exception being that we now have a DDR2 memory controller that the document says is DDR2-667 ready. We are told that this processor will use the M2 socket and that the processors will be AMD's first to support Microsoft's virtualization and security technologies called Presidio and Pacifica.
Also, there is indication of something called a AMDSI or AMD Serial Interface and is called a "simple way to access core temperatures." Also there is something refered to as a PROCHOT, an "external device that can initial thermal throttling." Might these two new features enable AMD to support individual core down-clocking and thermal throttling? That is something that both AMD and Intel have admitted needs to be addressed with their current dual core processor designs.
M2 Socket is a Reality
The document went on with more information on this new processor, including this partial diagram of the new M2 socket and AMD's integration outline.
Judging by the diagram, it looks like M2 will begin entering the market in Q2 of 2006, starting at the Performance segment. You can see that AMD is of course showing that both Socket 939 and Socket M2 are going to coexist for some time as the transition moves through to the value segment of the market, by the end of 2006. The document notes that the rate of transition is still up in the air and that it will depend greatly on customer adoption rates and AMD's production ramp.
Power Requirements for new Core and Socket
This portion of the "power schedule" for the new Athlon 64 parts show the current generatin of parts, Rev E, on the left side and the upcoming Rev F parts on the right. Notice that the Rev E indicates a "bump in power" for support of the Athlon 64 FX-55 processor and is why AMD has told everyone that any board that supports the FX-55 will support dual core processors.
Looking at the wattage estimates at the top of diagram, the single core (104 watts) and dual core (110 watts) specs remain the same, but there is a new estimate for the FX line up, at an increase to 125 watts (15W difference from the dual core). This extra power consumption may indicate that future FX parts are going to be clocked faster or have additional features that the other parts don't. Also hidden in those numbers is the fact that the new Rev F processors look to be running at lower voltages as well. Using the standard formula Power = Current x Voltage we can see that if the power of the of the single- and dual-core parts are staying the same, but the current is being increased, then the voltage must be lower.
Looking at the detailed prospective roadmap here again, we see that they are guessing the AMD M2 parts are going to have DDR2-667 memory support as well, but that the flagship CPU (currently known as the FX line) will have 2 MB of L2 cache instead of the 1 MB in the mainstream parts, and 512 KB in the value.
Of course, none of this information has come to me from AMD, nor have they spoken to me directly about anything that is mentioned here. With that in mind, it is entirely possible that the slides I am seeing here are 100% wrong; AMD might never use DDR2, their new socket may not be called M2 and use 1207 pins, and power may actually decrease in the next generation of parts. The information might simply be outdated. If that's the case, then at least we have an idea of what AMD was at least thinking in their transitions.
But what if it's not all smoke and mirrors? AMD adopting DDR2 memory would give that segment of the memory market a huge boost and over a couple years we might finally see the death of classic DDR memories. A new socket for these processors would also mean new motherboards, new chipsets and new upgrades for enthusiasts and users the world over. Not necessarily a buyer's favorite thing to hear, but again, we are looking down the road a year or more.
As always, keep your eyes and ears open for news on these topics, and join in us in the processor forum here at PC Perspective to see what others are saying about this potential shift for AMD. I'll be checking up on the discussion often to see some opinions and answer any questions about the write up in this thread.