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Athlon 64 FX-51 Processor Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD
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Where AMD Sees the Athlon 64 FX

This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective's website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.

AMD’s vision for the Athlon FX processor is for it to be “simply the best PC processor you can get” and the diagram below shows how they see the marketplace.






AMD sees the Athlon 64 as the main competitor to Intel’s upcoming Prescott core P4s, leaving the Athlon 64 FX at the top to reign supreme. As we recently heard from Intel they are countering that with a “super” CPU of their own, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition with 2 MB of L3 cache. This will supposedly erase the benefit of Athlon 64 FX having the on-die memory controller, but we will have to wait and see.


The specifications on the Athlon 64 FX processor are as follows:

Operating Frequency: 2.2GHz

Memory: Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller

Types of Memory: PC1600, PC2100, PC2700 and PC3200 Registered DDR memory

Packaging: 940-pin ceramic micro PGA

L1 Cache Size: 128KB L1 (64KB instruction + 64KB data)

L2 Cache Size: 1MB L2 (exclusive)

HyperTransport Links: Supports single link - 6.4GB/sec per link I/O bandwidth

Fab location: AMD's Fab 30 wafer fabrication facility in Dresden, Germany

Process Technology: 0.13 micron SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology

Die Size: 193mm2

Transistor count: Approximately 105.9 million

Nominal Voltage: 1.50v

Also, as I have tried to describe a few times both in previous articles as well as in our forums, with the release of the Athlon 64 line of processors, AMD is essentially getting rid of the front-side bus. Any programs that report one are doing so in error or out of confusion. The simple fact is that the FSB has been used for years as the highway through which the processor talks to the memory and other components of the motherboard. Now with the memory controller becoming integrated with the CPU, and with the addition of HyperTransport interconnects between chipsets and motherboard components, the FSB is no more -- at least for now.






The Athlon FX processor is set to stay at the top of AMD’s line of processors for the foreseeable future. That means that the fastest Athlon FX processor will always be faster than the fastest Athlon 64 processor. Athlon FX processors that fall behind during the upgrade cycle of CPUs will not be made. This will supposedly keep the demand for the FX line of CPUs high, as they will always represent the performance crown of AMD’s line.


Pricing


If you really want to know where AMD sees the Athlon FX processor going, you need to look at how much it’s gonna cost you! Our initial 1K pricing (price you can buy 1000 processor for, each) shows the following:


$733- AMD Athlon 64 FX-51 processor (operates at 2.2GHz)

$417- AMD Athlon 64 processor 3200+ (operates at 2.0GHz)


Hot damn, AMD sure isn’t going to duck and cover on these prices. While the prices for the CPUs will surely be higher immediately after launch, as per usual, they will drop as a month or two passes by, eventually settling slightly below the 1K pricing. But, a little below $733 isn’t a price to sneeze at, and this is one area AMD is surely going to get some flack for.











AMD says the Athlon 64 FX processor is meant for the highest-end consumer and the gamer that will spare no expense. And because they want to be on the bleeding edge, they will buy the fastest parts available. Whether or not they are willing to shell out this much money is a question that I can’t answer just yet.


Memory


As you saw from the first table on Page 1, the Athlon FX processor requires the use of Registered DIMMs in order to function in a stable manner. Our sample system shipped with Legacy brand DDR400 modules rated at CAS 2.5. During our testing process, no other manufacturer offered Registered DDR400. In my talks with Corsair and Kingston, both companies plan on offering DDR400 in Registered DIMMs soon after launch. After all, how can you sell a uber-enthusiast system to performance jockeys without the name brand memory they have come to love over the years?


The Confusion Sets In…


If you really sit down and think about it, with AMD introducing a second socket format for their desktop Athlon 64 processor, they are really putting themselves in a bind. Let me see if I can explain. Remember the time when AMD could point at Intel and bash them for having multiple sockets and multiple platforms? Gone are those days as with the release of the Athlon 64 and the Athlon 64 FX processor AMD will now having three sockets, and soon to be four when 939-pin processors are released next year. Suddenly, an AMD user needs to carefully decide what processor to buy based on the chipsets available for their platform and socket type. Will the 939-pin processor be supported by current chipsets? Probably yes. Will current 940-pin motherboards be worthless next year? Probably no. But the fact that we can even ask these questions shows that AMD wasn’t quite prepared for the switch over to an Athlon 64 FX line. All we can do is hope that AMD handles the new changes well, and doesn’t leave any users, especially those that might pay $700 for a processor, left out. I have faith in AMD to do this.

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