Introduction

When the Pentium 4 3.4GHz EE came out along with Prescott, Intel was able to take a few bragging rights away from AMD. Today, the answering shot from the other side is the AMD Athlon 64 FX-53. This launch isn't really bringing anything new to the table architecture-wise, but this is a processor with a large cache, high clock speed, and a 128bit memory interface (rather than the 64bits of the Athlon 64 series).

The FX-53 is an Opteron based processor running at 2.4GHz with 1MB of L2 cache. The FX-53 is only the second in the series of FX processors. The third (the FX-55) is due out near the end of the year.

Enthusiast or Just Expensive

This is really the biggest question that we need to answer. We already know that we are not going to recommend this part before the release of its socket 939 counterpart. We've spoken about the issue before, and our recent AMD CPU roadmap article shows the Athlon 64 FX-53 to be the very last Athlon 64 processor produced for socket 940. While this isn't exactly the end of the platform (Opteron CPUs will still be using socket 940), it will be the end of the desktop as a target market.

The upside is that moving to the new platform will allow us to find very fast RAM easily (since it will simply use current unbuffered DDR400 technology), and we should see improved performance from the same CPU.

So, since the Athlon 64 FX-53 processor won't change fundamentally between the two socket types, we should be able to get a very good idea of performance, and an idea of what this processor will actually be worth. The prices on these processors right now are very prohibitive, but before we go down that road, let's see exactly how the playing field looks.

The Test
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  • Pumpkinierre - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    #17,Johnsonx, well noticed. All a bit strange given there is only one Skt 940 m'board. I dont know why Derek would get problems with the FX53 and not the FX51. After all they are both running at the same clock speed and hence RAM speed. That damn memory controller perhaps!
    Reply
  • GoatHerderEd - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    "It may seem like that's what we've said at the end of every single CPU or graphics review for the past few months, but the giant caution sign will soon be taken down. "

    "But just wait if that's at all possible. The end is near, we promise."

    Talk about foreshadows. I wonder how long the chip in question has been in their lab. Forget the NDAs, tell us the real story!
    Reply
  • athlon64boy - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Hi #17. The Athlon FX is basically an Opteron rebranded as an Athlon FX. It is a 940 Pin Processor, just like the Opteron. When AMD releases their 939-pin Athlon, this will take non-ecc ram. This 939-Pined athlon 64 will be the head cheese. It will have 128-bit Dual Channel ram, and not be using the ECC ram. The Athlon 64 has single channel Ram. Hope that helped Reply
  • johnsonx - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Ok, one final question: Why are the FX processors being tested with ECC memory? Doesn't ECC further increase the performance penalty vs. regular DDR400 memory? Don't most people building FX boxes use Registered non-ECC RAM?

    So that was more than one question... doesn't three questions about the same thing count as one?
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Ok, the article isn't exactly clear about this, but it looks like the FX-51 and FX-53 were tested with different RAM. There are two types of registered RAM listed, and the article does say the FX-53 was tested with the OCZ 3200 2:3:3 RAM. It doesn't say so, but I guess that implies the FX-51 was tested with the Mushkin "High Performance" 2:3:2 RAM.

    By the timings listed, the Mushkin RAM used with the FX-51 should have been faster than the OCZ RAM used with the FX-53, but we all know that memory often performs differently in reality than it does on paper.

    So if it is true that the two CPU's were tested with different RAM, and that the OCZ RAM is faster in actual use than the Mushkin (nevermind the spec'd timings), then I guess that explains the benchmark discrepancies.

    Can AT confirm this? Derek?
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    Some of these benchmark numbers are a bit suspect. Compared with the FX-51, the FX-53 has a 9.1% higher clock speed. Therefore, all else being equal, 9.1% is the most extra performance the FX-53 can have compared to the FX-51... yet:

    In DIVX encoding, the FX-53 scores 52 to the FX-51's 46.3: a gain of 12.3%

    In 3DStudio, the FX-53 takes 2.78 minutes to render while the FX-51 takes 3.15 minutes: a drop in rendering time of 11.7%

    In Lightwave the rendering time drop is 10.2%

    SysMark 2004 DataAnalysis shows a whopping 19.1% performance increase, more than double what should be theoretically possible!
    All the rest of the SysMark 2004 scores show gains of 10 to 11 percent, still more than should be possible.

    I do realize there is a margin of error in benchmarking, but I just don't see these inconsistencies for any of the other processors. All the other gains are comfortably less than theoretical maximums. I don't normally go through AT reviews calculating the percentage difference for all the scores measured, but the Divx score just jumped out at me (that was before I noticed the SysMark2004 Data Analysis score).

    What can be made of this? Perhaps AT could re-check the numbers for the FX-51 and FX-53 alone on the suspect scores? If the benchmarks are indeed correct, then this implies AMD has made a stepping change that dramatically improved the efficiency of something in the CPU. Something that has to do with manipulating large data sets...
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    #13 yeah I read it right.

    the 3400+ beat the FX51 in:

    Aquamark
    Warcraft3
    Q3 Arena
    Jedi Academy (beat the FX53)

    equalled it in:

    Halo (also FX53)

    Got beaten (by 0.25%)in:

    Gun Metal
    Wofenstein
    UT2003

    That's a majority. If you count +/- 3% as significant (performance or error statistic wise) then the 3400+ is equal in all tests. You'd be a fool to buy an FX51 (or even FX53) for double the money.
    Reply
  • retrospooty - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    The 3400+ beat the FX51 in most games ?

    What review did you read ? ;)
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    The 3400+ beat the FX51 in most games and equalled it in the bandwidth intensive 2D apps encoding and rendering etc.. it even beat the FX53 in Jedi knight. Most a64s get a 10% overclock. So you'd have FX53 performance or better (because of o'clocked RAM and mobo) for less than half price (even less if accounting for non reg. single module memory).

    Unless, of course, you are an "enthusiast" (AMD defined)!

    The FX53 might not o'clock so well under standard cooling because it is at the present K8 headroom limit and suffers from the dual bank mem. controller and reg. memory which are less conducive to o'clocking.


    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Thursday, March 18, 2004 - link

    The scalability is DEFINATELY encouraging for AMD users. If the FX-55 was out and scaled porportionately as well, it wouldn't have been much of a contest. Reply

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