It's been a good year for AMD; they've been making money (not as much as Intel, but at least they're in the black) and ask the majority of PC enthusiasts and they're recommending AMD chips. There's obviously good reason; the Athlon 64, while not priced as aggressively as AMD's chips in the past, ends up offering better performance than the Pentium 4, for less money. What more could you want?

Recently AMD made the transition to 90nm with their Athlon 64, but did so on lower clocked parts, much like what Intel used to do whenever they would introduce a new manufacturing process. The first 90nm Athlon 64s came in the flavor of 3000+, 3200+ and 3500+ chips on the desktop, and despite initial overclocking success, 2.2GHz was the highest clock speed AMD introduced at 90nm.

There's no hiding the fact that all chip manufacturers have had some issues moving to 90nm. If they had all of their cards lined up beforehand, the biggest unavoidable issue becomes power density, which you can't simply get around regardless of how mature your 90nm process is. Fighting the incredible power densities of these extremely small cores requires a significant rethinking in how the cores are designed, laid out and even the functional nature of the logic these transistors represent.

Not to be held back by the move to 90nm, AMD continued with the release of two new flagship chips: the Athlon 64 4000+ and the Athlon 64 FX-55. We'll get to the specs momentarily, but needless to say that AMD's approach is in significant contrast to what Intel has recently announced. With the axing of the 4GHz Pentium 4, Intel has effectively let AMD win this latest war of high-cost, low yield CPUs at the very high end. While the victory itself may not mean much come next year or this year for that matter, it is a very interesting change in policy over at Intel. Remember the last time there was a similar push for Intel to ramp up clock speed, the decision was much different, and the market was given a 1.13GHz Pentium III that later had to be recalled. Intel's playing it very safe this time around.

AMD on the other hand has a different strategy. When we published a roadmap calling the Athlon 64 4000+ a 2.6GHz 512KB Socket-939 part back in January, we got a strange email from AMD warning us that the specifications of the Athlon 64 could change. We chalked it up to AMD just doing their usual duty whenever we publish data that is not yet publicly available (or talked about for that matter). But it turns out that their caution was not simply from a PR standpoint; today with an Athlon 64 4000+ in our hands AMD didn't release a 2.6GHz Athlon 64, they just re-released an Athlon 64 FX-53 - a 2.4GHz, 1MB L2 cache part, as a regular Athlon 64 4000+.

CPU manufacturing is all about yields, if AMD can make more chips that work by increasing the die size by adding a larger cache instead of upping the clock speed, then that's the route AMD will take. With the Athlon 64 4000+, it's clear what the outcome of AMD's equations was.

The Athlon 64 FX-55 is however, in line with what we expected. Like the 4000+ and all FX processors before it, the FX-55 features a 1MB L2 cache, but AMD managed to crank the chip up to a full 2.6GHz with the help of some tweaked manufacturing.

The FX-55 uses a type of strained silicon developed with one of AMD's partners, but unfortunately at this point AMD is not releasing much information on their implementation of strained silicon. IBM has been demonstrating strained silicon for years now so it is not too much of a surprise that AMD would have access to this technology for use in their CPUs. Intel first introduced strained silicon to desktop CPUs with their 90nm Prescott chips.

We've already talked about strained silicon in the past, but for a quick refresher here's basically what the technology allows. Silicon atoms found in microprocessors are arranged in a relatively repetitive lattice, with the space in between the atoms allowing electrons and thus electrical current to flow through. The spacing between the atoms creates resistance to the flow of electrons, the greater the spacing, the less the resistance, the greater the flow of electrons. Place a layer of silicon next to a layer of a silicon compound with greater atomic spacing (for example Silicon Germanium), and the pure silicon atoms will end up spacing themselves out more to match up with the SiGe lattice, thus straining the silicon lattice. The end result are freer flowing electrons allowing for faster transistor switching, and in this case higher clock speeds.

The big announcement will be whenever AMD brings strained silicon technology down to their 90nm chips, since 130nm advancements won't mean much going forward. It does appear that AMD's manufacturing partnerships are definitely paying off though, which has helped them address manufacturing as a serious weakness in years past.

So here's what we've got: an Athlon 64 4000+ that is basically a FX-53 (but still clock locked for all higher multipliers like a regular Athlon 64), and an Athlon 64 FX-55 that uses a 130nm strained silicon on insulator process to hit 2.6GHz. Pricing on the two chips is, well, pricey: $827 for the FX-55 and $729 for the FX-53 err we mean Athlon 64 4000+.

Alongside AMD's launch of the FX-55 and 4000+, NVIDIA has announced what may be the chipset to get for the Athlon 64: the long awaited nForce4. For a look at this chipset, which we feature in our review today, read our in-depth look at the nForce4.

Model Numbers Help and Confuse
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  • mlittl3 - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Oh and one more thing and then I will shut up. With regards to trusting your research, how about I trust Anandtech's, Tomshardware's, Xbitlabs', Acehardware's, [H]ardocp's, etc. research over yours. None of these sites have made an official statement that you are mad to choose AMD over Intel. I will trust their research before I trust yours (unless you run a hardware review site that proves that AMD processors are less stable and slower than Intel processors). Reply
  • mlittl3 - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    t, Valeria was refering to the AMD 8000 series chipsets lacking the features you listed. If you want an AMD chipset, you will have to have third-party addon chips to support SATA, firewire, etc.

    Valerie, you said you liked it when people answered your comments so here goes.

    "More competitors to the battlefield or some kind of regulation is needed."

    I agree with you here. We need companies like AMD because they help continue progress and make equal if not better processors than Intel, forcing Intel in turn to make equal or better processors than AMD and so on.

    "...that AMD madness will end one time..."

    This contradicts your statement about competition. You want regulation and competition but you want AMD gone. Why do you hate other companies besides Intel?

    "Name me one company which prefers AMD and doesnt produce intel, name me one industrial computer who support AMDs, one automotive rack test system provider, hospital equipment, avionic systems, and so on"

    According to your request for more competition, why would you want a company that only supports AMD. If all companies support all processors, we have the ability to make choices based on the strong points of each technology for a given application that we desire.

    "its about quality and support what you will never get from AMD/taiwan"

    I don't understand why you typed Taiwan (refering to Via I guess), but anyway, Intel has delayed/cancelled products over 10 times in the last year. They cancelled Tejas and 4GHz Prescott. They delayed Dothan, Whitefield (dual-cores I believe) and Itanium progress has been delayed like crazy. AMD has had a lot less setbacks. I don't know what the definition of quality is in Europe, but here in America, such cancellations and delays are unacceptable.

    "Get Intel, and dont fall to temporaly madness"

    No one will respect your "research" with statements like these. Again you contradict your desire for competition. No one is mad to choose AMD, Via, Transmeta, Apple, IBM, Sun, etc. Everyone has a specific application and no one processor does well at everything. Do you know anything about the following processors?

    Via C3
    Transmeta Crusoe
    IBM Power series (4,5)
    Sun Ultrasparc (III, III+, IV, IV+)
    Apple G4 (Motorola) G5 (IBM)

    Do you think people who choose these are "mad" or do you only hate AMD?

    "Respected companies doesnt change so fast"

    My respect for your research is getting worse. Intel has changed their mind about issues left and right in short periods of time (sorry but I have to say it, they are "flip-flopping"). At one point, they insulted and ridiculed model numbers for processors. They also said that only megahertz(hurtz) matters. They also said that it is not the time for 64-bit. They have changed their position on all these points. Intel changing their minds so much is not a good quality a company should have that is supposedly "leading" the industry.

    "everybody makes mistakes, but with intel you have allways choice"

    If Intel and AMD both make mistakes, why are you so much in bed with Intel. If you want all the "mad" people to get over AMD and only go with Intel, how is this choice? How do you have choice without competition. If Intel only existed, then we would have no choice. You contradict yourself again.

    "now i am happy that AMD is here, same as i am happy that there is cheap cars to buy, competing is good for all."

    You are all over the place. First you say that people should get over their temporary madness now you are glad AMD is here. What are you trying to say? If competing is good for all, then we should have many processor companies driving technological progress. One day, AMD might be bigger than Intel. Do you think Intel will be the largest company for processors over the next 100 years? No one can predict that. Are you going to tell people they are "mad" when they choose Intel if AMD one day gets larger than Intel. With regards to your cheap comments, Intel and AMD both make expensive and cheap processors. Their price points are almost identical. Do some freaking research why don't you?

    "Stop that anti intel BS which is based on fool synthetic benchmarks and theoretical "if than" visions"

    You obviously have not done any research. Intel wins the majority of the synthetic benchmarks. That is why many companies pick them because there are so many apps out there, synthetic benchmarks represent an overall processor goodness. However, hardware enthusiats know that synthetic benchmarks don't mean crap, and they hunt down a review site that did tests with the application they are interested in. People who play games buy AMD, people who do video/audio encoding and rendering pick Intel, people who do scientific apps pick AMD, etc. (I know this is always changing people so don't flame me). Try doing your research again.

    "I did lot of research, trust me."

    How about I do not trust you based on your above statements which contradict themselves constantly. I believe you are an Intel Fangirl just like an AMD fangirl/boy with very little info.

    "We need better chipsets, better support from OS and for developers to be close to intel."

    Again, you are contradicting your statements about competition. How are other companies supposed to compete if they only work with Intel? This is the problem we have with the horrible Windows operating system. Developers only work with Microsoft and we are plagued with problems because of that monopoly.

    Sorry, Valerie, but your statements are flawed and they contradict themselves. You are an Intel Fangirl and nothing else. Both AMD and Intel Fangirls/boys never present a valid argument. Technology is technology. It benefits mankind regardless of whether or not AMD or Intel is in front of the name. People will pick a product that suits their needs. Both AMD and Intel provide for different needs from different people.
    Reply
  • blckgrffn - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Val!

    Enough!

    It is really obvious that you have no clue what you are talking about! You made your "points" and now it is time to stop. The comments you made here will be remembered and if you try to make any discussion in the future, not matter how valid, you will be dismissed as the intel fan"girl" that you seem to be. Whatever, I am glad that someone will stick with intel through their development slump...

    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    #72 Val: "[AMD] Is cheaper, but not much. Whats the difference some stupid 100euro for CPU which lasts for one year? I dont think that they are worse because they are cheaper, but they are cheaper because they are worse."

    Its news to me that AMD processors only last one year. My Athlon XP 1700+ purchased in Dec 2001 and used almost continually for the three or so years since then is still working fine. I must have been very lucky. I've been doubly lucky as my other machine, with an AMD K6-III/400 purchased early in 1999 is also still running without any problems.

    Do you have a link to a reliable source which supports your statement that AMD processors only last one year? Or is this just some more BS you invented?
    Reply
  • t - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    74:
    why exactly do "we need...better support from OS and fro developers to be close to intel"?

    given that there are a number of x86-64 linux distrobutions available now... and linux is a fast growing segment of the server market, it would seem that the 'better support' is in place. Remember that it is intel who is also releasing x86-64 based xeons... as a direct response to AMD's strategy.

    http://www.realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RW...

    also, sun are porting solaris (like it or lump it, its still a major player in the server market) to x86-64

    and back to chipsets... one of the majore chipset suppliers for xeon systems is serverworks, who are also supporting opteron

    http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1604929,00.as...

    so...it would seem that both OS support AND chipset support is in place, or rapidly falling so.

    intel is a miniscule percentage of the server market for non 32bit x86 systems.... see the realwordtech article linked above.... most 'serious' server developers don't work with intel, because intel systems don't make up a high percentage of the market...instead u have sun/hp/ibm being the majority.

    heh, 'special boards'... im sure tyan would happily sell u an amd OR intel based board for a hefty price above any mainstream product. its not like intels server boards are dirt cheap either...

    what do you mean 'affordable mainboard with enough features'... the only 'feature' lacking from amd system chipsets is ddr2. They have sata, pci-e, raid, etc, etc.

    i dont wanna be all condescending...but if you did 'a lot of research' and want ppl to 'look away from [their] overclocked gaming machines', perhaps you should practise what you preach a little... or do some more extensive research.

    the world is not x86, and in the non x86 market, it is definately not intel.

    out of curiousity... what are your thoughts on the non intel power5 processors? :)

    t.
    Reply
  • val - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    71:

    >As to verification... seeing as sun/ibm/hp
    > offer k8 based servers, they HAVE to be
    > verified, you know tier1 oem..that kinda
    > thing.
    where AMD chipset is used and completely different design than you can ever buy for normal PC. so the efect is same. You are right in that k8 is changing things (for better for AMD) but it is still far from perfect. We need better chipsets, better support from OS and for developers to be close to intel.


    >also...amd do make their own chipsets, always >have....just that sis/via/nvidia chipsets are >more targetted at the mainstream.
    yes they are much worse and with AMD chipset you cannot buy affordable mainboard with enough features. Not counting those special mainboards.
    So it is nothing else than what i said: no good chipset available.

    Valerie
    Reply
  • Gnoad - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    god, someone just end it already. Its obvious arguing our points is gonna accomplish anything here, so lets just let it be now. Reply
  • val - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    68: i dont have only celerons. And i am not him, but her.

    67: at least somebody answers my questions, unfortunately only some and catching only wrong data out of them.

    1.Who cares that 1.7 AMD outperforms it? 1.7 AMD is rated 2000+ and if you tell me that you need 2000+ to play movies, get mails and write office stuff, than heh. i have celeron 2 Ghz and even video encoding is fast on it (23% under athlon 64 3200+) who cares? Far cry i have 60 FPS, Doom3 30 and race driver 2 67 fps. Please do not make me tired.

    2. Mostly outsourced as i heard, i am not sure right now here.

    3. They don't! They should rather take few bucks they are giving to marketing company which is one year raising PR numbers with same CPU frequency and give them to microsoft to include support in VC++ and speed up the XP64bit. There is no good support for hardware developers at all. No discussion here, look to industrial business.

    4. Is cheaper, but not much. Whats the difference some stupid 100euro for CPU which lasts for one year? I dont think that they are worse because they are cheaper, but they are cheaper because they are worse. I am 19+ and dont call me kid.

    5. PR filtered.

    I did lot of research, trust me. seems like you dont. Please look away from your overclocking gaming machines.

    >go buy a Dell, you silly ignorant little fool.
    i hope you feel big and smart, not like those idiots making ten times more moneys then you.
    Reply
  • t - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    Val: What i am trying to tell you, that AMD is only manufacturing what somebody else designs, they dont care and dont support products and developers, dont care for chipsets quality, certificates, nothing. This leads to that overall quality of AMD platform is far from what you can get with similar price based on Intel.

    umm....who designs them then? oh thats right...the k7/k8 were largely designed by the alpha engineers that AMD hired after hp killed off the alpha. Intel also have a large body of ex-alpha guys, mainly working on the itanium iirc.
    oh...AMD also have a fab tech agreement with IBM.

    unless u mean that AMD only makes intel compatible chips? In that case, yes, yes they did, until the K8 when AMD extended the x86 ISA. Making compatible, ie. x86 processors is also what transmeta/via do. And anyway, intel and AMD have a cross patent agreement, meaning that they CAN copy each other if they so wish.

    As to verification... seeing as sun/ibm/hp offer k8 based servers, they HAVE to be verified, you know tier1 oem..that kinda thing.

    also...amd do make their own chipsets, always have....just that sis/via/nvidia chipsets are more targetted at the mainstream.

    sorry for the huge post.
    Reply
  • Gnoad - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Thats a good pic. I wonder if Intel actually tried testing to see how prescott performed at 4ghz before they released it. I know I would have, but it seems they just kinda let it loose then realized, "Oh crap, we screwed up." Reply

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