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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  • southernpac - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    It has been reported elsewhere that the FX55 runs 15 degrees hotter than the 4000+, and that Cool & Quiet are available on both. True? Also, does the new AMD stock fan (with the copper fins and heat pipe) come with the 4000+? Reply
  • ThePlagiarmaster - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Val,

    Sounds like you don't know how to build a PC properly. With a good PSU and QUALITY memory (corsair, kingston, crucial etc) you won't experience any problems with AMD systems (with any motherboard). If you still experience problems turn off that damned SPD. Config the memory yourself and problems go away. I don't even use SPD's when setting up customers PC's these days. If there is a way to turn it off and config the memory myself it's the first thing I do.

    All SPD's are not created equal (nor are PSU's). Tons of them out there will make your machine run like crap. A simple fix is to kill it and config the memory yourself in the bios.

    Learn to read forums and how to troubleshoot your PC.

    Plag
    Reply
  • nastyemu25 - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    what the hell did val just say? Reply
  • Philbill - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Sounds to me as though the Intel fanboys are worried :) Reply
  • val - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    53: yes and Acer on all their notebooks and servers :-). And Britney never touched Sprite. Please try to discover what PR means. Google will help ya. Reply
  • val - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    51: to your 820 and other sarcastic notes, everybody makes mistakes, but with intel you have allways choice. If you dont like to buy intel chipset with limited warranty with purpose to be used on cheapest office PCs, you can buy workstation or server based chipset . But what you can choose for AMD? Is there any high durable VIA chipset? Or nvidia, SIS? Dont make me smile.

    (note: i have 820 in my HTPC and since installed it runs fine)
    Reply
  • Sunbird - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Ferrari uses AMD..... Word! Reply
  • val - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    51: that AMD madness will end one time, and AMD chips (and specialy chipsets for AMD) have not one bug - there is one difference: intel is serious respected company, which doesnt depend on how few overclockers will like or dislike them. They must publish the bugs for this reason. AMD is not publishing any, even that stupid one with JPEG was hidden under carpet as much as was possible. And should we discuss chipsets for AMD now? Like VIA deleting harddrive with ATI card, and many others?

    Reason why many of them are not scared to install AMD servers is, that demand is not so high. If you have single purpose server with backup, you can run it even on ATA drives and ALI chipset to reach 99.3%.

    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. Its not like that few overclockers will not see their page for a ten minutes, its about lifes and lot lot of moneys. And trust me, its not about marketing or idiocy, its about quality and support what you will never get from AMD/taiwan.

    Get Intel, and dont fall to temporaly madness.
    I know that Hyundai is popular now, but it is not BMW (even when you can get three hyundais for one BMW and even when one is able to drive on straight road same top speed). Respected companies doesnt change so fast.

    About benchmarks? I like to see once, where is compared how many interupts and system calls is CPU able to handle. Benchmark with network and soundcard, mouse, keyboard and other utilization. You will be surprised.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    #49 like to spread FUD much? Total BS. That's why Anands, you know the guy who reviews hardware professionally seeing thousands of products a year, been using AMD servers for four years now, right because thier unreliable?? IMO ihere is actually no more effective endorsement of the stability and reliability of AMD platforms than the fact that AnandTech uses them as the sole platform for the web serving of its main site.



    Need we bring up intels i820, grantsdale, alterwood disasters? Even the prescott has 31 bugs which will blue screen your comp under certain sofware instances. Thus far opteron/A64 has one. Hav'nt you heard about intel recalling processors? Hav'nt you heard about Northwood sudden death syndrome? Hav'nt you heard about HP Recall Thousands of pentium Notebooks for chipset problems?

    If there's any instability to be had it's with Intel simply because AMD "offloads" about 80% of a chipsets work to the CPU's interated mem controller now.


    Those "AMD bad chipset" museings were all FUD way back when too. No need to rehash them, I will if you want. But Just look what Intel man, TOM's hardware says way back then. http://www.tomshardware.com/mainboard/01q1/010122/...

    "The most important finding was the enjoyable fact that each of the tested boards ran 100% stable even at the fastest possible memory timing settings. VIA's upcoming DDR chipsets may not look too impressive right now, but the Apollo KT133A is a matured, fast and solid product that offers good performance."

    http://www6.tomshardware.com/cpu/00q4/001017/athlo...

    "AMD Processors are significantly less expensive than Intel processors although they are at least on par in terms of performance. - FACT"

    "AMD processors are incompatible. - LIE

    Not that the average guy who just heard that phrase would know what the heck 'incompatible' is, but it sounds really bad, doesn't it? Well, even the people who do know that 'incompatible' means that a product wouldn't work reliably with other components (which of course is bad) are wrong if they accuse AMD's Athlon or Duron processors of it. In our labs we are testing all kinds of Athlon platforms with all kinds of different components and I can definitely say that I cannot see any difference between the compatibility of AMD products and platforms compared to the same from Intel."

    "Chipsets for AMD processors are inferior to Intel chipsets. - LIE

    Yeah, sure, the earth is flat and politicians are honest ... I am still amused when I see people posting the above message in news groups or as their response to articles. How many more times does Intel need to screw up their chipsets (i820, MTH, ...) until you guys get the message? . . . Incompatibilities are more a problem of the motherboard BIOS than of the chipset right now. Thus both chipset makers, Intel as well as VIA, are actually in the same situation."


    Stop the hate budda. Get AMD, everyones doing it.:)

    Reply
  • val - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    also should the countries to do something with AMD/Intel NVIDIA/ATI cartels. CPU / GC costs so much more than whole mainboard. Thats crazy. More competitors to the battlefield or some kind of regulation is needed. Reply

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