Final Words

Now armed with final silicon, our stance on AMD's Athlon 64 X2 doesn't change at all - AMD clearly has the faster overall dual core desktop solution, but at a price that will be out of reach for most users. Eventually, AMD's pricing will fall to a level that is far more reasonable, but unfortunately, that time won't be until 2006 at the earliest. We've already looked at the slow dual core vs. fast single core debate, but be prepared to be put in that very position later this year as both AMD and Intel bring their dual core CPUs to market at very different price points.

What we did find interesting was that while AMD generally maintains a large performance advantage in single threaded applications, our multitasking scenarios were a mixed bag of results between AMD and Intel. The multitasking gaming tests were obviously very strongly in favor of AMD, but the general usage tests were more mixed between AMD and Intel. In many cases, Intel's Pentium D actually pulled ahead in terms of performance.

Also, in our multitasking tests, there were a couple of cases where we saw no major performance difference between the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ and 4200+. It was mostly in the single application (both single and multi-threaded) that we saw the most noticeable performance difference between the two CPUs.

The other thing we continue to see is that dual core with Hyper Threading in these multitasking environments is very much the double-edged sword. There are some situations where having both Hyper Threading and dual core gives Intel a huge performance boost, but there are others where the exact opposite is true. As it currently stands, we're not sure how much of a future Hyper Threading will have in future Intel architectures - but it's definitely not a sure win.
In terms of availability, AMD is encouraging all reviewers to mention that the Athlon 64 X2 will be available starting in June. However, that availability in June will only be through select system builders, probably very similar to Intel's current dual core "availability". Widespread availability of the Athlon 64 X2 won't be until Q3 or Q4 of this year, and we aren't sure when we'll see widespread Pentium D/Extreme Edition availability either. AMD did deliver on their promise and is making sure that dual core Opterons are out and available for the enterprise markets, however.

With the last of our product-specific dual core previews out the door, now we all play the waiting game. But with both AMD and Intel pushing dual core heavily, we can only hope that the wait won't be too long - especially from the standpoint of improving software support for dual core systems. Today, we're able to show some very tangible performance gains for dual core CPUs in multitasking usage environments, but in the future, single application performance should get a very tangible performance boost as well.

Gaming Multitasking Scenario
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  • bcoupland - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    People have been saying that a dual-core processor at the same speed as a single-core one will not speed up games and such, but I beg to differ: In a real-world situation, one would have MS Antispyware and an AV program running in the background, while running a game. Also, don't forget the OS as well as onboard sound, chipset raid, USB, and other various programs. A dual-core cpu, even for single-threaded apps like most games, will pretty much give that game its own core. I am excited to see the dual-cores come out personally. Reply
  • SLIM - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Hey Anand,

    Nice article as always, but why do you think the extreme edition suffers so badly in some of the benches compared to its non-HT brother???

    Is it possible/plausible that some of those terrible results are due to the more cpu intensive apps being saddled on the two logical cores of just one physical core? Do you think bandwidth can really explain the huge drops in performance?

    Oh and thanks for the overclocking results too.

    SLIM
    Reply
  • PetNorth - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    For those talking about multitasking tests. Look at them carefully and not bla bla bla. I mean: X2 4800+ Vs. PEE 840 and X2 4200+ Vs. PD 840.

    So, in these 5 Anand multitasking scenarios:

    X2 4800+ Vs. PEE 840: 2-3
    X2 4200+ Vs. PD 840: 4-1

    And don't forget that Multitasking compiling scenario from Opteron DC review is missing in this X2 review: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?... Another X2's victory.
    Reply
  • philthedrill - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Hyperthreading can be a loss when there are memory bandwidth intensive apps. The P4 implementation shares a the data TLB, which ends up thrashing when you have lots of requests that go to memory from both threads. Reply
  • Brian23 - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Thank you for the overclocking results! Reply
  • Son of a N00b - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    I wont be upgrading to a dual core anytime soon, ill stick with my fx55 on water @3000mgz, but when i do go DC its nice to know there will still be a amd heart at the center. Reply
  • pdr - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Can y'all start adding some linux tests (32- and 64-bit would be nice) on things like dual core? Everybody seems to think that if you want some oompfh in linux you will obviously want to build a mega-box cluster. But I just want to minimize my kernel compiles (yes, I run Gentoo), video processing (transcode, ffmpeg, mencoder, etc) - I don't want to turn my living room into a data center. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    For those of you asking for overclocking results, here's what I've seen:

    Pentium Extreme Edition 840: 3.6GHz was the maximum stable overclock I could obtain with standard air cooling. I had to bump up the voltage by around 5% I believe (it was a while ago so I don't have the numbers fresh in my mind).

    Athlon 64 X2 4200+: The best I could do here was just under 2.6GHz (2.53GHz to be exact). This was with air cooling and no voltage tweaks necessary. I couldn't get it totally stable at 2.6GHz.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Quanticles - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Anand,

    Could you run the real world tests with a single-core Pentium to compare against the FX-55?

    I'm interested in seeing if there's an issue with how well AMD's platform switches threads. If the Pentium beats out the FX-55 significantly then maybe AMD's platform has trouble switching among huge number of threads. This would mean the X2 would be more suitable for multi-tasking among 2-4 threads where the Pent-D would be more suitable for 6-inf threads.
    Reply
  • nserra - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    #61 "hear what you're saying...to me, they don't seem faster but they do seem "smoother". "

    There is an easy explanation what you are saying, for example a game on intel does 50 to 70 fps.
    On AMD 50 to 100 fps.
    Who will be the smoother, the one that appears to be working always at the same speed, because the one that will give you higher differences of performance peaks will of course look "erratic".
    Reply

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