To say that AMD has been uncharacteristically quiet lately would be an understatement of epic proportions. The company that had been so vocal about their K8 architecture in the past will hardly say anything at all about future products, extending even to its forthcoming AM2 platform. In just two months AMD is scheduled to officially unveil its first DDR2 platform (Socket-AM2), but we've heard virtually nothing about performance expectations.

Back in January we sought to discover for ourselves what AMD's Socket-AM2 platform would have in store for end users. You'll remember that when Intel made the shift to DDR2 it basically yielded no tangible performance improvement, and we were all quite afraid that the same would be true of AM2. When we finally tested the AM2 samples that were available at the time, performance was absolutely dismal. Not only could AMD's AM2 not outperform currently shipping Socket-939 platforms, but due to serious issues with the chip's memory controller performance was significantly lower.

Given that AMD was supposed to launch in June at Computex, the fact that AM2 was performing so poorly just five months before launch was cause for worry. Despite our worries, we elected not to publish benchmark results and to give AMD more time to fix the problems. We're not interested in creating mass panic by testing a product that's clearly premature.

In February we tried once more, this time with a new spin of the AM2 silicon, but performance continued to be lower than Socket-939. Luckily for AMD, the performance had improved significantly, so it was slower than Socket-939 but not as much as before.

The next revision of the AM2 silicon we received sometime in March, and this one finally added support for DDR2-800, which is what AM2 will launch with supposedly at Computex. With the launch only three months out, we expected performance to be at final shipping levels, and we were left disappointed once more. Even with DDR2-800 at the best timings we could manage back then, Socket-AM2 was unable to outperform Socket-939 at DDR-400.

That brings us to today; we're now in the month of April, with less than two months before AMD's official unveiling of its Socket-AM2 platform at Computex in June, and yes we have a brand new spin of AM2 silicon here to test. We should note that it's not all AMD that's been holding AM2 performance behind. The motherboard makers have of course gone through their fair share of board revisions, not to mention the various chipset revisions that have changed performance as well. Regardless, according to internal AMD documents, AM2 CPUs are going to start being sold to distributors starting next month, leaving very little time for significant changes to the CPU to impact performance. We feel that now is as good of a time to preview AM2 performance and put things into perspective as we're likely to get before the official launch.

What's AM2?


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  • poohbear - Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - link

    >> It's 2006 and there are still tons of people using athlon xps and agp, so plz drop your enthusiast perspective on the market, it's not realistic of what the avg person has.

    >>>>Huh!? And what does this drivel has to do with whether AM2 or S939 is the best choice for a new computer build in the next few months?

    what im saying w/ that "drivel", is that ppl are gonna have their s939 for a long time to come, the fact that lots of avg folks still use athlon xps and have agp, is proof of the previous gen staying around a whole lot longer than the manufacturers would care for. you call it "drivel", i call it proof. whatever, it's just another internet argument.

    yes, if u're buying a new system, and u're an avg user, then a s939 will suit your needs fine for the next 2-3 years. If the AM2 is the same price as the s939 when it's released, then ofcourse the choice is obvious, aside from it being a new port and the s939 being a mature and stable port. about the EOL stuff, the Athlon xp has been EOL for a long time, but we can all find those chips easily for dirt cheap, EOL doesnt mean jack all if u know where to find them. thank u, and here's to another 2 years on my s939 rig.:)
  • Brunnis - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    >> nope it makes perfect sense. i wouldnt hold my breath for the am2 is what im saying.

    No, you made it seem like Anand recommended AM2 for people that already own reasonably fast S939 systems. The fact is that Anand did the exact opposite. What Anand said is that there's no point in buyin a S939 system for those who have older computers, which makes perfect sense. Don't you agree?

    >> im sorry but a 5% increase doesnt justify ditching my s939 and opty 144.

    Yeah? And who told you that you should? It wasn't me and it certainly wasn't Anand. I was talking about people with older systems, as was Anand, yet you fail to comprehend what either of us wrote. Way to go.

    >> and what are u talking about limited life? w/ dualcores available on the s939 they're gonna be around well into 2008.

    So, if I were in the market for a new system you'd recommend me to buy a complete S939 system insted of AM2? AM2 will likely get 65nm K8L CPUs and possibly quad cores. I'm sure S939 is great and all, but it probably won't have much faster CPUs released for it and it's therefore pretty dead. Notice that I'm still not recommending S939 owners to switch on the launch of AM2, or that current 939 systems will be slow compared to the initial AM2 systems.

    >> It's 2006 and there are still tons of people using athlon xps and agp, so plz drop your enthusiast perspective on the market, it's not realistic of what the avg person has.

    Huh!? And what does this drivel has to do with whether AM2 or S939 is the best choice for a new computer build in the next few months?
  • Gnarr - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Since we only see a 35% percentage increese in bandwith with AM2, we should see the same gains from DDR2-533 as DDR2-800.

    DDR2-533 in dualchannel offers 8528MBps, but 6800MBps seems to be the peak bandwith for AM2 as is.
  • Furen - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Yes, DDR2 533 and DDR2 667 benchmarks would have been useful, considering that these are the cheaper types of DDR2. Just because the max bandwidth for DDR2 533 is still higher than AMD's current bandwidth it doesn't mean that it'll achieve the same usable bandwidth unless AMD is currently being bottlenecked by a data link rather than by the mem controller's efficiency. Reply
  • highlandsun - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Eh... With the arrival of DDR3 looming for 2007 it makes no sense to me to build a DDR2-based system now. DDR is still about the same price as DDR2, and where DDR2-800 gets a tiny performance edge over DDR-400, that edge completely disappears with DDR-500, or even a mild degree of overclocking.

    Or at least, performance isn't sufficient motivation to switch, and price doesn't seem to be either. Perhaps power efficiency, since DDR2 is lower voltage.
  • Calin - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    If we assume you are talking about an AMD system, then DDR3 won't be a possibility until maybe three years from now. They just moved out of the Socket 939, and into a new socket. Next socket you will see will be in more than a couple of years...
    Yes, performance and price are not reason to switch now. Power efficiency for sure, if you will buy a low power processor (from 89W TDP to a 35W TDP, that is some 50W of power in best case, and possibly 25W in the worst case).
    What other reason to switch could you have? Access to more memory (maybe), I don't know how much memory those new processors could access (more than 4GB? current mainboards seem limited to 3GB). Availability of high performance memory - fast DDR memory will dry up sooner than later. Processors will dry up too.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Can you point to any DDR3 chipsets for CPUs on the horizon? Intel is sticking with DDR2 for now, and DDR3 is basically only being used in GPUs. It could be several years before we see DDR3 chipsets on motherboards - assuming we don't just skip that option altogether and go some other route. Reply
  • NullSubroutine - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    ddr3 and gddr3 arent the same things. Reply
  • menting - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    right now DDR3 is still slated to sample in mid 2007, and announced late 2007 / early 2008 timeframe. Reply
  • DrMrLordX - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Word is AM3 will be out by 2007, giving AM2 a product life of maybe one year, maybe less.">

    Of course, this is nothing but rumor and speculation, but it's a common rumor. If this is even remotely true, AM2 is nothing but a stopgap measure.

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