To say that AMD has been uncharacteristically quiet lately would be an understatement of epic proportions. The company that had been so vocal about their K8 architecture in the past will hardly say anything at all about future products, extending even to its forthcoming AM2 platform. In just two months AMD is scheduled to officially unveil its first DDR2 platform (Socket-AM2), but we've heard virtually nothing about performance expectations.

Back in January we sought to discover for ourselves what AMD's Socket-AM2 platform would have in store for end users. You'll remember that when Intel made the shift to DDR2 it basically yielded no tangible performance improvement, and we were all quite afraid that the same would be true of AM2. When we finally tested the AM2 samples that were available at the time, performance was absolutely dismal. Not only could AMD's AM2 not outperform currently shipping Socket-939 platforms, but due to serious issues with the chip's memory controller performance was significantly lower.

Given that AMD was supposed to launch in June at Computex, the fact that AM2 was performing so poorly just five months before launch was cause for worry. Despite our worries, we elected not to publish benchmark results and to give AMD more time to fix the problems. We're not interested in creating mass panic by testing a product that's clearly premature.

In February we tried once more, this time with a new spin of the AM2 silicon, but performance continued to be lower than Socket-939. Luckily for AMD, the performance had improved significantly, so it was slower than Socket-939 but not as much as before.

The next revision of the AM2 silicon we received sometime in March, and this one finally added support for DDR2-800, which is what AM2 will launch with supposedly at Computex. With the launch only three months out, we expected performance to be at final shipping levels, and we were left disappointed once more. Even with DDR2-800 at the best timings we could manage back then, Socket-AM2 was unable to outperform Socket-939 at DDR-400.

That brings us to today; we're now in the month of April, with less than two months before AMD's official unveiling of its Socket-AM2 platform at Computex in June, and yes we have a brand new spin of AM2 silicon here to test. We should note that it's not all AMD that's been holding AM2 performance behind. The motherboard makers have of course gone through their fair share of board revisions, not to mention the various chipset revisions that have changed performance as well. Regardless, according to internal AMD documents, AM2 CPUs are going to start being sold to distributors starting next month, leaving very little time for significant changes to the CPU to impact performance. We feel that now is as good of a time to preview AM2 performance and put things into perspective as we're likely to get before the official launch.

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  • abhaxus - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    they don't need to make price cuts yet... when conroe comes out i'm sure they will drop the prices by quite a bit. as it stands, the X2s are by far the best chip on the market and have been for quite some time, and have been reasonably static on price for half a year now. This is the first time in a long time that i remember chips staying THAT static at high prices.

    That said... this review makes me worry for AMD. I hope they have something up their sleeve otherwise this generation will go very badly for them.
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    20% Seriousely?

    I'm no CPU expert, but I cannot imagine that kind of gain. Pentium 4's moving to 65nm and 7900GPUs didnt see anywhere near those kinds of gains.
    Reply
  • Furen - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I think a 20% clock speed increase is conceivable if a) AMD's 65nm shrink goes off well (let's assume a 10% increase due to this), and b) AMD's embedded germanium technique is 10% better than current DSL silicon. Of course, clocks woul not be 20% better until yields hit a decent point.

    I think that the main way we'll see AMD get closer to a performance parity with Intel will be through the various architectural tweaks in Rev G, though there WILL be some clock speed increase out of manufacturing,.
    Reply
  • bob661 - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I think I will wait for the die shrink and just get a dual core and some ram for now. I've been trying to decide whether to wait or not to upgrade. I was thinking about waiting for the die shrink anyways. Reply
  • poohbear - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    "better late than never" is the expression we all know, not "better early than never". wow, anandtech are really trying to sell this cpu in their "final words" section, even though it seems like a waste your money according to your performance tests. i think i'll stick w/ my s939 and just upgrade to a x2 cpu instead of a whole new socket.:/ Reply
  • Brunnis - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    You're just reiterating what Anand wrote. He said that there's no point for S939 owners to upgrade, but that AM2 is the natural socket of choice for those who don't already own an up to date system.

    Are you suggesting that those people should buy S939 parts instead, despite them having a very limited future and worse performance? That makes absolutely zero sense.
    Reply
  • poohbear - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    nope it makes perfect sense. i wouldnt hold my breath for the am2 is what im saying. im sorry but a 5% increase doesnt justify ditching my s939 and opty 144. and what are u talking about limited life? w/ dualcores available on the s939 they're gonna be around well into 2008. It's 2006 and there are still tons of people using athlon xps and agp, so plz drop your enthusiast perspective on the market, it's not realistic of what the avg person has. Reply
  • sp1nfer - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    quote:

    w/ dualcores available on the s939 they're gonna be around well into 2008.


    no, it's EOL (end of life) is Q4'06, with socket 754 holding out one year more. By the time you decide to go X2, with AM2 out and all, prices are going to be higher than AM2 counterparts. AMD said it themselves that prices for s939 will be increased near and on AM2 launch. I think Brunnis covered most of it.

    It makes perfect sense.
    Reply
  • poohbear - Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - link

    >> It's 2006 and there are still tons of people using athlon xps and agp, so plz drop your enthusiast perspective on the market, it's not realistic of what the avg person has.

    >>>>Huh!? And what does this drivel has to do with whether AM2 or S939 is the best choice for a new computer build in the next few months?

    what im saying w/ that "drivel", is that ppl are gonna have their s939 for a long time to come, the fact that lots of avg folks still use athlon xps and have agp, is proof of the previous gen staying around a whole lot longer than the manufacturers would care for. you call it "drivel", i call it proof. whatever, it's just another internet argument.

    yes, if u're buying a new system, and u're an avg user, then a s939 will suit your needs fine for the next 2-3 years. If the AM2 is the same price as the s939 when it's released, then ofcourse the choice is obvious, aside from it being a new port and the s939 being a mature and stable port. about the EOL stuff, the Athlon xp has been EOL for a long time, but we can all find those chips easily for dirt cheap, EOL doesnt mean jack all if u know where to find them. thank u, and here's to another 2 years on my s939 rig.:)
    Reply
  • Brunnis - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    >> nope it makes perfect sense. i wouldnt hold my breath for the am2 is what im saying.

    No, you made it seem like Anand recommended AM2 for people that already own reasonably fast S939 systems. The fact is that Anand did the exact opposite. What Anand said is that there's no point in buyin a S939 system for those who have older computers, which makes perfect sense. Don't you agree?

    >> im sorry but a 5% increase doesnt justify ditching my s939 and opty 144.

    Yeah? And who told you that you should? It wasn't me and it certainly wasn't Anand. I was talking about people with older systems, as was Anand, yet you fail to comprehend what either of us wrote. Way to go.

    >> and what are u talking about limited life? w/ dualcores available on the s939 they're gonna be around well into 2008.

    So, if I were in the market for a new system you'd recommend me to buy a complete S939 system insted of AM2? AM2 will likely get 65nm K8L CPUs and possibly quad cores. I'm sure S939 is great and all, but it probably won't have much faster CPUs released for it and it's therefore pretty dead. Notice that I'm still not recommending S939 owners to switch on the launch of AM2, or that current 939 systems will be slow compared to the initial AM2 systems.

    >> It's 2006 and there are still tons of people using athlon xps and agp, so plz drop your enthusiast perspective on the market, it's not realistic of what the avg person has.

    Huh!? And what does this drivel has to do with whether AM2 or S939 is the best choice for a new computer build in the next few months?
    Reply

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