Processor Architecture

Another concern has surfaced in the last few months that should be a consideration for anyone shopping for an Athlon 64 motherboard - the processor factor. When we tested the nForce4 SLI boards, we used the 4000+ Clawhammer chip as our standard CPU. We also had done some testing with the early Winchester and Newcastle chips, which were based on the 90nm production process instead of the 130nm process used for Clawhammer. Overall, these early 90nm chips were mainly a die-shrink, and performance - and compatability - were much the same whether it be the Clawhammer, Winchester, or Newcastle.

Recently, however, we have some new choices from AMD in Revision E chips and dual-core. These new Revision E parts support SSE3, are based on the 90nm process, and they do not always behave as earlier chips did in the same motherboard. We saw this for ourselves in our Gold Editor's Choice MSI K8N Neo4/SLI. While we experienced outstanding overclocking with a Clawhammer chip, users with Venice/San Diego chips were experiencing perfectly miserable overclocking results. It has taken MSI some time to find a solution to this problem, but we are happy to report that a new BIOS has just been released that claims to fix the Venice issues on the MSI.

The point of this is that the newest Athlon 64 Revision E chips do behave differently than earlier Athlon 64 chips in some boards. This is likely a temporary concern as the market adjusts to the newest CPU architectures, but it is a factor that should be considered.

This becomes an even larger issue with the new Manchester/Toledo dual-core chipsets. The Athlon 64 X2 joins two Venice or San Diego cores on a single CPU. These Revision E X2 dual-core CPUs (the 4200+, 4400+. 4600+, and 4800+) generally will work in any Socket 939 board. However, you will certainly need at least a BIOS upgrade. Most of the major manufacturers have quickly brought the needed BIOS upgrades to market, but if you plan to run a dual-core chip, you need to check before you buy.

We approached these issues in this roundup by continuing our benchmarks with the Clawhammer-based 4000+ processor - to allow the greatest comparison to earlier motherboard reviews. However, we also checked each board with a Manchester 90nm 4200+ CPU. This required finding the latest BIOS for x2 support, which we have also listed in the Motherboard Features chart for each board. This tells you the earliest BIOS revision that has been said by the manufacturer to support the X2 dual core chips.

It should also be mentioned that AMD has implemented a hidden feature in Revision E processors, namely additional memory ratios that can be implemented in BIOS. As we had seen on the Abit motherboard in this roundup, a Revision E chip adds 433, 466, and 500 options to the available memory ratios. This has to be coded in the BIOS to be available, but the new asynchronous ratios are a feature of the Revision E Memory Controller. We identified 2 boards, the Abit and DFI, that correctly implemented this function with the Rev. E chips and included that information in the feature table.

The good news is that just about any Socket 939 motherboard can run dual-core, and every motherboard in this roundup had a BIOS very recently available to support AMD x2 processors. But you will more than likely need a BIOS update.

How to Update BIOS for Dual-Core if You Have Dual-Core Only

This brings up the nagging question that is always asked when BIOS upgrades are required for certain CPUs. What do you do if you have a board that needs a BIOS upgrade for dual-core and you only have a dual-core chip? We asked AMD this question and was given the following reply:
"If the BIOS you are working with (original BIOS in the board) supports a rev E single core (AKA... 90nm as most new boards should), it will allow you to flash the BIOS to a BIOS that supports rev E dual core. In my experience, a DC processor with single core rev E support will run fine, but only as a single core. If the BIOS doesn't support rev E (In other words, you may have a good board, but the BIOS is pretty old), you will likely need to install a pre-rev E (AKA-130nm) AMD processor to flash the BIOS.

I'm told that if a customer can't flash their BIOS, many mobo vendors will mail out the BIOS chip to them (if it's not soldered down, obviously)."

Index The Motherboard Test Suite
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  • tribbleva - Tuesday, December 20, 2005 - link

    Every single one of these MBs has a fan on the NB... where are the passively cooled mobos? The last thing I want is one or TWO more tiny fans just on the mobo to worry about failing... Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    "someof you take Anandtech's word as the word of GOD"

    It's as close as you can get without dying.:)
    Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, July 22, 2005 - link

    Viper - You should come inside the forums for specfic help.. Reply
  • dg3274 - Saturday, July 16, 2005 - link

    The article states that the Abit board has a problem with 1:1 overclocking. I disagree. I think the problem is that it does not provide enough ram voltage to run the RAM at high 1:1 FSB. 2.8 volts is not enough to run ANY ram much higher than 280 or so FSB. Reply
  • Viper4185 - Thursday, July 14, 2005 - link

    No one wants to help me with my n00b questions :( Reply
  • Marcel - Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - link

    #67 I must be a little a slow …

    In the test “Maximun CPU Clock ( Lower Multiplier )”

    For Chaintec, Abit, etc you use the multiplier in “11”, and only for Epox and DFI you use the multiplier in “9”, then you show a diagram with nothing more than the fsb.
    http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/nf4%20ultra%20r...

    The first question is WHY ?? there is no explanation for use different multiplier in the review. Not some guys, but ALL ones have better result in chaintec and abit with a lower multiplier.
    Reply
  • TheGlassman - Monday, July 11, 2005 - link

    Thanks Wesley, I did find you had checked HTT, and as I stated in my last post I don't understand what the problem was. But the deeper I looked into the review, the better job you seemed to have done, so sorry if I impied you didn't try very hard.
    DFI has a dual core (beta) bios available, dated 6-23-05
    Epox has a dual core (release) bios available, dated 6-29-05
    These were not used in testing.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, July 11, 2005 - link

    #59 and #60 - One of the first articles I did a couple of years ago about Athlon 64 was how to overclock by manipulating HTT frequencies. I ALWAYS test manual HTT dividers I know should work for certain 1:1 memory clocks as well as Auto HTT if it is an available option.

    #58 - I was very CLEAR in the review that I tested with the BIOS that would allow the X2 A64 to work. We did check each board with an X2. That is the ONLY reason we tested and used very recent Beta BIOS'. Also there are 2 other very recent Chaintech reviews at other websites who had test results almost equal to what I found on the Chaintech, so there are at least 2 other Chaintechs loose with less than stirring overclocking. In the end, as I stated in the review, the Chaintech is a decent board, but at about the same price as the Epox, with poorer overclocking results, it was hard to give it an Editor's Choice this time around. The results found in this roundup should remove anyone's concern that we get cherry boards from manufacturers. I am a good overclocker, and very experienced in air overclocking and memory overclocking. What I got from these boards on air is all they could do with the TCCD memory that is all but standard test memory for motherboards these days. The capabilities of the memory we used is also well known and I tweaked for TCCD if settings were available if the board was not doing well at stock memory settings and our normal test timings.

    I am really pleased some of you experienced better performance than I did with the Chaintech and Abit boards, but I can only report what I actually found in my tests. I don't think you come to AnandTech for a survey of what other websites or Forums found, because I find overclockers are notorious at exagerrating what they can reach with overclocks. We try to provide a consisten test environment for overclocking that will give repeatable overclocking results. Results, of course, always vary board to board, but having said that, OC results are usually pretty consistent on better boards from sample to sample.
    Reply
  • lefenzy - Saturday, July 09, 2005 - link

    Sorry, wrong link. that one was for the SLI version.

    http://www.foxconnchannel.com/productsDownload_mot...
    Reply
  • lefenzy - Saturday, July 09, 2005 - link

    Foxconn has a BIOS release that allow for multiplier adjustment.

    http://www.foxconnchannel.com/productsDownload_mot...

    Reply

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