As AMD rolls out its newest Sempron processor line, many readers are asking us if the reduced cache Socket 754 Sempron 3100+ really compares with already shipping Athlon 64 single channel solutions. Today we take two single channel, 1.8GHz processors with differing L2 cache and compare them in the same Linux benchmarks we have used in the past. The Athlon 64 2800+ and the Sempron 3100+ are nearly identical processors, except for the 256KB cache difference. There is also a $20 delta between the two retail products, so today we decide if the $20 difference between the two processors is worth the sacrafice of level two cache and 64-bit addressing. We have provided benchmarks of another 1.8GHz 32-bit processor from AMD, as well as the Athlon 64 3000+ for reference only.

Update: This article got pushed live prematurely. If you read it before 12PM EST on the 18th, you read an incomplete, unfinished article.

Performance Test Configuration

AMD Athlon 64 2800+ (130nm, 1.8GHz, 512KB L2 Cache)
AMD Athlon 64 3000+ (130nm, 2.0GHz, 512KB L2 Cache)
AMD Sempron 3100+ (130nm, 1.8GHz, 256KB L2 Cache)
AMD Athlon XP 2200+ (130nm, 1.8GHz, 256KB L2 Cache, 266FSB)

RAM: 2 x 512MB PC-3200 CL2 (400MHz)
Memory Timings: Default
Motherboard: Chaintech ZNF-250 (nForce3, Socket 754)
DFI NFII Infinity (nForce2, Socket 462)
Operating System(s): SuSE 9.1 Professional (32 bit)
Linux 2.6.4-52-default
Compiler: linux:~ # gcc -v Reading specs from /usr/lib/gcc-lib/i586-suse-linux/3.3.3/specs Configured with: ../configure --enable-threads=posix --prefix=/usr --with-local-prefix=/usr/local --infodir=/usr/share/info --mandir=/usr/share/man --enable-languages=c,c++,f77,objc,java,ada --disable-checking --libdir=/usr/lib --enable-libgcj --with-gxx-include-dir=/usr/include/g++ --with-slibdir=/lib --with-system-zlib --enable-shared --enable-__cxa_atexit i586-suse-linux Thread model: posix gcc version 3.3.3 (SuSE Linux)
Libraries: linux:~ # /lib/ GNU C Library stable release version 2.3.3 (20040405), by Roland McGrath et al. Copyright (C) 2004 Free Software Foundation, Inc. This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. Configured for i686-suse-linux. Compiled by GNU CC version 3.3.3 (SuSE Linux). Compiled on a Linux 2.6.4 system on 2004-04-05. Available extensions: GNU libio by Per Bothner crypt add-on version 2.1 by Michael Glad and others linuxthreads-0.10 by Xavier Leroy GNU Libidn by Simon Josefsson NoVersion patch for broken glibc 2.0 binaries BIND-8.2.3-T5B libthread_db work sponsored by Alpha Processor Inc NIS(YP)/NIS+ NSS modules 0.19 by Thorsten Kukuk Thread-local storage support included. Report bugs using the `glibcbug' script to .

Even though we are using 1GB of memory in a dual channel configuration, the Socket 754 platform will only perform in single channel mode. Fortunately for AMD, since the memory controller is directly on the processor we do not see large latencies going from dual channel to single channel mode. Only the Athlon 64 2800+ can run 64-bit binaries, so for the sake of experiment we will only look at 32-bit binaries today. We have looked at 32-bit versus 64-bit performance in the past, and we will revisit it again in a few weeks, so today we will just focus on 32-bit performance.

Also keep in mind the GCC 3.3.3 included with SuSE 9.1 Pro has many back ported options from the official 3.4.1 tree. Our results with GCC 3.3.3 are much more optimized than the standard GCC 3.3.3.

Database Benchmarks


View All Comments

  • dougSF30 - Friday, August 20, 2004 - link


    It doesn't matter if Intel is formally using GHz any longer or not. (And GHZ is still featured prominently in nearly every Intel part or system offered for sale today, but that is really beside the point.)

    The simplest way to put it is, whether or not any of us LIKES it, Sempron PR is not designed to be equivalent to A64 PR.

    Thus it is misleading to imply that there may be something wrong with the Sempron 3100+ PR rating based on relative performance with any A64 parts.

    Sure, I'd like it if AMD copied Intel model numbers for all their parts, but there may be a legal reason they are hesistant to do so.

    Anyway, just a small nitpick in an otherwise excellent review.

  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Hi Doug,

    Since i noticed you copied your email along in the comments, ill copy your response back into the comments too:

    Hi Doug,

    I would agree with your logic except the fact that Celerons no longer go by any sort of similar rating system. If you look back to May before the Sempron line was announced, AMD was beginning to rollout a Product Code numbering scheme.

    Then suddenly, this was scrapped from the roadmaps and AMD went back to the PR rating system, *after* the induction of the Celeron D line. You and I know the Sempron 3100+ competes against a Celeron D ~340 but that is definitely obscured by the PR rating.

    Your claim is that since Intel uses a higher GHz rating for its older Celeron CPUs, AMD should be allowed to do the same for its budget Semprons. I don't think its acceptable for AMD nor Intel to use a PR or GHz rating system to sell their processors if they don't adhere by the same rating standards from processor to processor!

    Let's face it, AMD already does it with the 3400+ and the 3500+; dual channel or not they perform within 1% of each other! Do dual channel Athlons get a different rating system than single channel? In the same argument do we claim half cache processors get a different rating system than full cache ones?

    Kristopher Kubicki
    Senior Editor,
  • dougSF30 - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link


    AMD has made it very clear that the Sempron PR rating system is NOT equivalent to the A64 PR rating system.

    So you can't conclude that you cannot "vouch" for the Sempron rating of 3100+, compared to the A64 3000+ or 2800+, as those figures are NOT MEANT to be compared.

    Sempron PR is designed to rate against Celeron clockspeed, whatever AMD says officially about a "different suite" of benchmarks for legal reasons.

    And A64 PR is designed to rate against the full P4.

    So, given that Celeron performance is much less than P4 performance at the same clockspeed, another way to say this is:

    For a given level of performance, Celeron clock is much higher than P4 clock.

    Thus is follows automatically that Sempron PR is higher than A64 PR for a given level of performance.

    It's not "moot" because Intel is also labeling Celeron parts with Model numbers... the point is still valid: Sempon PR is a completely different rating system than A64 PR.

    The only way AMD could have been less confusing would have been to copy the Intel Celeron model numbers, with the Sempron "330" "340", etc., but there may be reasons (legal?) they cannot do that.

    Pretty simple, no?

  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Matt did you see this as well:

    Youre getting higher numbers than i got with my Xeon 3.6GHz chip.

  • Matthew Daws - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Some further comments about TSCP: I found an old article over at Ace's which used it. The numbers don't seem comparable, but the article does say that the P4 does very, very well. Still not sure why I am getting different numbers to you. Have you run the windows benchmark which can be downloaded: that should give an indication of the numbers you might expect on linux...

  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Interesting results but it would probably have been more relevant to the majority if it was the standard Windows benchmarks as everything was 32-bit.

    When I saw "L2 cache: Sempron vs Athlon" and "three 1.8GHz offerings from AMD", I really expected to see the Sempr0n 3100+ (256K), and Athlon 64 2800+ (512K) that you used, tested along with a Athlon 64 3200+ (1MB) set to a 9x multiplier. Then we'd see all three cache sizes on otherwise identical chips in 32-bit mode to truly show what effect L2 cache size has. Throwing in an Athlon XP instead as a third AMD 1.8GHz chip was rather meaningless as there are far too many other differences.

    The results do reflect what we've seen in the past that the 512K -> 256K L2 cache halving doesn't have a significant impact on performance in most apps, certainly not the crippling effect it has on the P4 architecture. Of course with the exclusive 128K L1 cache we're really only looking at a 40% (640K -> 384K) cache reduction.

    I've got to disagree with your conclusion I'm afraid. Given what is a very small price difference between the Sempr0n 3100+ and A64 2800+, spending the $20 extra for the A64 2800+ is a no brainer when you consider total system cost. Throw in just a S754 mobo and the performance difference alone already makes the A64 2800+ a viable option. People buying S754 systems aren't seriously looking to upgrade in the future (else they'd go S939). And being stuck with a Sempr0n 3100+ means you miss out on all the benefits of 64-bit in a year or two.
  • Matthew Daws - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Kris: Hmm, well, using -O3 -march=pentium4, under Windows, I get with my Celeron 2GHz:

    GCC 3.3.3 -- 272K
    GCC 3.4.1 -- 280K

    GCC 3.3.3 (-02 -march=pentium4) -- 273K
    GCC 3.3.3 (-O3 only) -- 262K

    Just with pure clock-speed scaling, I'd expect 20% increase with a 2.4C, so 300K or so...

    You shouldn't see any difference with linux: indeed, only a linux box I have access to, with GCC 3.2.2 (I *think* it's a P4 2.8GHz, but I'm not 100% sure: I'm doing a remote-login right now, so cannot check!) I get 365K with (-O3 -march=pentium4). This seems to be pretty linear clock scaling, which we might expect if the memory usage is low...

    An Athlon *should* excel at this sort of test, at least given other benchmarks.

    Just to check: I am using the source-code from Tom Kerrigan, at

  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Hi Matt: Just -O2/3 -march=athlon

    I emailed a few people about your results. I have a 2.4C here that only does 250K with GCC 3.3.3

  • Matthew Daws - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Kris: I don't have an AthlonXP, so I cannot comment. I was using GCC 3.4.1 (MinGW version for Windows) which might explain the difference. Still, I would expect any of the processors in this test to completely thrash my Celeron...

    What flags were you using with the AthlonXP? I'm pretty sure it's not an SSE(2) issue...

  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, August 19, 2004 - link

    Matthew Daws: I was getting wild results with my TSCP on the athlon xp, which is why i didnt include it. I assumed there was some optimization somewhere that shouldnt have been.

    which GCC version are you using? on the a64 platforms ive seen as much as 30% increases using GCC 3.4.1 over 3.3.3.


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