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


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  • mlittl3 - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Hey Val, why don't you go to this link and look at a picture of your hero, Intel CEO Craig Barrett on one knee begging forgiveness for their shitty processors.

    Both Intel and AMD have difficulties. But your analogy of AMD being like the cheap car companies doesn't make sense. The expensive car companies like Ferrari, Porsche, etc. sell the best cars but are very small companies because not many can afford them. AMD is like these companies now because they sell the processors for a lot of money because they are really good. Just not everyone can afford them.

    But AMD is good for cheap processors too. Please find one review site that shows any Celeron doing better than a Sempron 3100+. Just one site. I want only to see you post that link in your next posting. Nothing else please because every thing you say is wrong and I'm sure Intel fanboys are telling you to stop making them look bad.
  • Gnoad - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Eh, let him have his celerons, Intel will need the fan base soon to stay in business come 2005... Reply
  • Rhl - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    First off, Val, you're ignorant. You shouldn't speak on subjects where you are grieviously misinformed, it makes your intelligence quotient seem very low.

    1. You think Celerons are fast? I'm sorry, what hole have you been living in? A 1.7 ghz Celeron is SLOW, and far outpaced by an Athlon 1.7 ghz. Almost by 2x as much.

    2. AMD doesn't design their own processors? May I ask who does then? INTEL? LOL. Sorry, but no, AMD does design all of their own CPU's.

    3. They don't care or support consumers/developers etc? OF COURSE THEY DO, AMD's track record of supporting "the little guys" (independent shops, consumers etc) is FAR better than Intel, who doesn't care much at all for the "little guys". What you have stated is just plain WRONG.

    4. AMD is alot cheaper than Intel, and is ALOT better as well. They beat Intel in real world benchmarks 9 times out of 10. You think because they're cheaper they're worse? How old are you? You need to do some research, kid.

    5. You're right, nobody expects AMD to be as good as Intel... BECAUSE THEY'RE BETTER. AMD is flatout kicking Intel's ass, and has been since the original Athlon was released.

    I think, val, that your brain is too "cold down", as you say, and it's not working as well as it should. Go research AMD vs Intel, and check out the realworld benchmarks. If that doesn't change your mind, go buy a Dell, you silly ignorant little fool.

  • screech - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    #64: celeron=too fast? seems like you haven't owned a celeron......anyway, why pay more for a crappy celeron when AMD can offer more performance for less money? (I am talking about the older celerons, ie 1.7, celeronD isn't that bad although sempron 3100 still wipes the floor with it).

    AMD only copies intel? where did intel's EMT64 (or whatever its called) come from? realistically both copy each other, although it looks like intel should have done more copying of a shorter pipeline a la AMD, given that the prescott seems to have been a failure. (no 4 ghz).

    AMD is cheap, doesn't care for quality? Ladies and gentlemen, seems like Kanavit from THG has decided to start trolling around here...I heard him say that exact same thing a while back over there. anyway, this is such BS that it is hilarious. What kind of flawed logic says that better performance=cheap processors? haha. :D

    anti intel BS based on fool snthetic benchmarks? LMAO. I agree that many synthetics are dumb, because often they do not reflect real performance in applications (intel high clocks often win the synthetics but then AMD's processors often win real world benchies), but AMD owns intel in jthe majority of benchmarks. I suppose you consider AMD winning (except for a tie or 2) EVERY gaming benchmark, an "if than" or synthetic? UT2004 is theoretical? it doesnt exist?

    on another note, good job discrediting the only benchmarks that intel usually wins--synthetics.

    I hope you wake up and smell the coffee.
  • Gnoad - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    haha, its kinda funny watching someone defend their opinion to the bitter end even though its blatantly wrong and totally misinformed. No offense val, but seriously, you got a lot of reading to do to catch up with the current realities in the CPU world. Reply
  • val - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    #63: i am not ignorant fool and try to control your self a bit.
    1,7 celeron is pretty old, 3 years or more, but i am sure that for many tasks even this is fast too much. I am sure that if you feel that the mentioned celeron was slow, it was because you was playing on it (what it was not supposed to be for) or rest of system was bad designed (HDD, memory,...)

    #61: now i am happy that AMD is here, same as i am happy that there is cheap cars to buy, competing is good for all. i call for even more competitors to drop prices to real level (as in mainboards they are), same for GCs.
    What i am trying to tell you, that AMD is only manufacturing what somebody else designs, they dont care and dont support products and developers, dont care for chipsets quality, certificates, nothing. This leads to that overall quality of AMD platform is far from what you can get with similar price based on Intel.
    So cold down, AMD is cheap, is supposed to be cheap, nobody expects to be as good as intel with all their background. Stop that anti intel BS which is based on fool synthetic benchmarks and theoretical "if than" visions.
  • michaelpatrick33 - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    The power consumption graph is wrong because it shows the AMD 3000+ and 3200+ as having dual channel but the power usage shows the same as the 130nm chips. AMD only makes the 3000+ and 3200+ for 939 on 90nm I thought so unless the 90nm 3000+ and 3200+ runs with more power than the faster 3500+ 90nm the graph needs to be changed. Just a stickler sorry. Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    Vai you need to pull you head out of your ass and smell the air. WTF are you talking about??? Sure AMD has had their share of troubles (who hasn't, Intel certainly has), but saying what your're saying just makes me think you're an ignorant fool.

    It's exacly that kind of thinking that makes people buy Celerons (I mean it's Intel right, so it can't be bad), and they I have to deal with 1,7 GHz piece of crap like I did yesterday for example. God that is SLOOOOOOOOOW!
  • mlittl3 - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    #49, #50, #52, #54, #55, #60 (Val)

    Do you think AMD should go out of business and that Intel should be the only company out there? I am guessing you are from another country so you probably also hate (never seen) an Apple. Do you think no one should choose apple? Do you wish that apple should go out of business? What about Via and Transmeta processors (C3 and Crusoe)? Do you hate those companies too and wish them out of business? Do you think their processors suck?

    You talk about choice in your #54 post (I'm assuming you don't know what choice means) yet you want everyone to choose Intel because you don't know how to build a pc properly. If you base your decision not to buy AMD because you've had troubles in the past and you are assumming that everyone will have troubles, then how did AMD make ~$1.25 billion in revenue last quarter? Did they make that money selling lemonade?

    Just because a company doesn't have a large presence in whatever country you are from doesn't make them inferior products. I don't know if you have heard the statement that competition drives progress. If AMD, VIA, Transmeta, Apple, IBM, etc. etc. did not exist because Val can't get an AMD system running and demands everyone use Intel, then what motivation does Intel have to bring good products to market? The 1 GHz race is what got Intel to improve its processors and maybe even release the Pentium 4. The addition of 64-bits to AMD and Intel processors got software and hardware companies to start optimizing their products for the new tech. Hell, now with Dual-core being pushed by both companies, multi-threaded apps (and hopefully this will include games) will be developed by software companies as well.

    If we had just Intel which I'm assuming you pray was the case everyday, then we would have non-64bit, ~2 Ghz, non-dualcore, non-HT, pentium 3's right now.

    You must live under a rock and think AMD is still the company it was back in the early 1990's. Both Intel and AMD are necessary in the market and both of their processors and other products are used by a large number of people. More people use Intel right now and AMD has the right to try and get more people to use them and they are.

    What exactly are you trying to tell us?
  • val - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    58: thank you for information, i use Kingston or infineon on rated values which are properly detected over SPD. Maybe not on mainboards for AMD, i dont know. PSU i use Intel or Enermax with appropriate power. In my HTPC i have some noname, but it runs with no problem. Reply

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