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
POST A COMMENT

89 Comments

View All Comments

  • coolme - Monday, January 10, 2005 - link

    #85 yeah, but when comparing to Tom's Hardware review, it's totally off track... (Tom's is more believeble because there is pics of how he measured it and based on the fact that there is no way a A64 could handle 200+ watts)

    http://www6.tomshardware.com/cpu/20041115/pentium4...
    how Tom tested it: http://www6.tomshardware.com/cpu/20041115/pentium4...
    Reply
  • eight - Monday, December 27, 2004 - link

    Has anyone information about A64 performance with Premiere Pro 1.5? I assume thet A64 does beat P4, but assumption is mother of... :) Reply
  • euanw - Tuesday, November 09, 2004 - link

    #44
    Wesley,
    I am very impressed by your articles. Can you inform me of the procedure you used to overclock the FX55? With the Neo2 board I am not clear on CPU vid and CPU voltage, what do they mean? When I change the multiplier to 13.5 my new PC reaches winXP and then reboots.

    My setup is MSI K8N-Neo2-54G, FX-55, 2 x 512MB - OCZ EL DDR PC-3200 Platinum Rev2, Nvidia Quadro FX3000, 2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120 GB, Matrox RTX-100 real time video editor, Antec TrueBlue 480W ATX-12V, BenQ DVD Dual DW1610, WinXP-SP2.
    Reply
  • euanw - Tuesday, November 09, 2004 - link

    #44
    Wesley,
    Reply
  • Gioron - Sunday, October 24, 2004 - link

    While I'm unsure of the exact method used in this review, I'm sure that there is no built-in power measurement devices on the motherboards and processors listed (unless its new and no one told me...) so its NOT just just a matter of installing software that can read a sensor thats already there (as in all the CPU temp monitors). This means it requires some hardware to measure the voltage and current flow to various components (or you can cheat a little and assume the voltage is constant and just measure current).

    Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds, since isolating various components can be a problem. Its fairly easy to measure things like hard drive power useage since there is only one power connector going to it and its easy to access, so you measure the current on the 5v line and the current on the 12v line, and you're pretty much done. Things like CPUs, motherboards and graphics cards are a bit more difficult. On the newer graphics cards you can measure the power consumption from the additional molex connector, but in all likelyhood, the card will also draw a certain amount of power from the AGP slot power lines, and no one in their right mind is going to unsolder the AGP slot and raise it half an inch in an attempt to put a current sensor in line with the power leads. Thus, you need to rely on indirect means and educated guesses. You can measure the current going into the motherboard, but how much of that is going to the chipset, the CPU, the RAM and the graphics card? You can swap in a different CPU and see how it changes, but that won't give you absolute readings. You can try to remove the CPU and see what power the MB uses without one, but odds are it'll use more power when its actually interfacing with a CPU instead of beeping error codes at you.

    Bottom line: There is no easy way to measure power consumption, and even dedicated hardware review sites have problems with it. Personally, I trust Anand far enough that I'm sure he didn't completely screw it up, and the numbers he has are probably close enough to the real thing. I'd forget about measuring power for myself.
    Reply
  • xsilver - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Kinda late on the comments but..If anand or anybody can answer -- what is used to measure the "power consumption" software? or hardware? links? I would like to test this myself
    thanks
    Reply
  • Bakwetu - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Whoah, it's been a while since I checked out cpu reviews and I must say Amd has some impressive cpu:s nowadays. Even though I am budget oriented when it comes to buying hardare, I'd choose the 3400+ model before the 3200+, it's not all that much more expensive and seems to perform much better Reply
  • t - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    79
    uhuh.... and in a server type situation, how many raid arrays are ran off the chipset controllers? not many i would wager..

    hell... u prolly have an independent fibre optic raid array :)

    hardware, baby, hardware.

    t.
    Reply
  • knitecrow - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    I always knew women were trouble when it comes to technology ;)
    Reply
  • screech - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    nice ones #79, 78. :) Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now