What's In A New Socket

With the introduction of the 939 platform, we will see a convergence of platforms on the mainstream and high end desktop market for Athlon 64. Until now, the decision between the mainstream Athlon 64 and the FX version of the processor brought with it the problems of choosing between registered memory for a dual channel platform originally targeted at the workstation market and unbuffered memory for a single channel platform. The 939 pin platform brings us the ability to use unbuffered memory (which is slightly faster, cheaper, and more available than registered memory) in a dual channel configuration with either an Athlon 64 or an Athlon 64 FX processor.

Not that any platform is (or ever will be?) future proof, but 939 will provide its adopters with a broader range of options for processors. We have already hit the upper limits of the 940 desktop platform in the FX-53 processor, and the 754 pin Athlon 64 will only reach one speed grade past the current high end 3400+ to the 3700+ (at least as far as current AMD plans indicate).

Of course, midrange and high end platform convergence doesn't mean that the 940 pin and 754 pin platforms will go away. We will continue to see 940 pin processors and platforms in their original market (workstation/server) sporting AMD's Opteron processors. The 754 platform will become the new home of the Athlon XP and AMD's value line of processors. The new Athlon XP will be a trimmed down, 32bit only version of the Athlon 64.

Aside from bringing together AMD's two current Athlon 64 lines of processors, the 939 also has a couple other benefits that are attractive to users. As we mentioned earlier, the new platform will offer support for unbuffered memory with a dual channel setup. Athlon 64 processors built for the 754 pin socket are limited to single channel memory support, and the 940 pin processors require registered RAM. As such, we should see a performance increase when moving to 939 from both directions: The FX processors will shed the added latency of buffered RAM, while dual channel support will add increased bandwidth to the mainstream Athlon 64 line.

There will be less improvement on the FX line of processors, but will either design increase significantly in performance from the enhancements made possible on the 939 platform? Based on the naming of the new chips being released, AMD seems to think so. Of course, that is ultimately what we are here to find out.

Let's take a look at what AMD is bringing out to plug into this socket.

Index The Chips
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  • Pumpkinierre - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    That earlier french review couldnt get 4 DS sticks to work at DDR400:


    Still, I'd sooner have the dual bank memory than the extra cache. But if it is $800 and $600 then the Skt754s become good buys.
  • intercollector - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    #6 - With memory prices where they're at now, the more dimms the better.

    For example, if you were to be building a system right now, you'd be hard pressed to justify getting anything more than 1GB (2X512). This fills up 2 slots already, thus only allowing 1 free slot for upgrade in the future. If you were to upgrade with another 512 stick, you'd have 1.5GB, but all your spots filled. If you want this system to last a while, that might just not do.

    I say that 3 is definately the minimum you'd ever want, and wanting 4 is definately not out of the question.
  • Jeff7181 - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    #5 - Is running four unbuffered DIMMs really that necessary? I mean... I haven't ever had more than two DIMMs since my 486, which technically didn't have any DIMMs... but it had 4 one MB SIMMs.
  • mechBgon - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    One potential benefit to the Socket939 platform is that it should open the door to running four unbuffered DDR400 DIMMs.
  • JGF - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    Hmm, now Toms is reporting the $700US+ price of the 3800+ as well. This had better not be true. Roughly $50 seperating the FX line and the 'regular joe' A64 line?? Please AMD, tell me this isnt right...
  • Jeff7181 - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    Well well well... looks like socket 939 isn't really worth waiting for, especially if it's priced a lot higher than socket 754. Socket 754, here I come :)
  • JGF - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    Good read. Couple of disappointments (though not neccessarily wesley's fault):

    1. Pricing/availability - supplies of 939 parts are rumored to be VERY constrained and some quarters are even uttering the dreaded p-phrase (paper launch). Also early listings for the 3800+ are placing it at an astronomical $700US+ which is obviously bunk. SAtill we are without any official statement regarding price and availability.

    2. No 3700+ scores or even a word with what is happening there. With the rumored constraints on 939 and the fact that PCI-E from VIA or nvidia wont be around until late summer, I'm actually seriously looking into a 3700+ 754 system. When will we get info?!?
  • dvinnen - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    hmmm, 30 mins after the nda ended. Yall need to get on the ball.

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