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.

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  • Shintai - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    I love how that site only compared Conroes worst results, also the Conroe used crappy memory timings, DDR2-533, preproduction boards, ES sample CPU. Oh, and did we forget its a 300$ CPU vs a 1200$ AMD CPU? Ye we might have forgotten than...didn´t we.
  • mino - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    Most important it's NON-EXISTENT vs. $1200 CPU.

    Seems many people forget about it.
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    "Facts"? That site is merely an ultra-pro-AMD/ultra-anti-Intel blog factory. It might as well be titled, "The Ravings of a Lunatic Fanboy!" I think just about every article ends up ripping on Intel in some fashion. He's actually still proclaiming the near-future death of Intel, I think. "Intel is dead, and the only reason they haven't realized it is because they don't have a brain." I think that was what he stated on one of the "articles".

    Isn't this the same Sharky that has been talking about the demise of Intel for years, like since the Athlon days? What will he say when Intel ships 2.66 GHz Conroe chips that easily outperform FX-60 chips in meaningful benchmarks at $300 or so, and then follow it up by having 3.0+ GHz parts? I can already guess what he'll say: Intel is just being weak by including more cache, making more chips, selling more processors, yada yada yada.

    Look, Intel isn't great, and AMD isn't the promised Mesiah. Both are mega-corporations looking to make money. End of story. What has AMD really done new in the past three years? They've integrated the memory controller into K7, and they've pushed 64-bits onto us. I still haven't done any 64-bit computing, because for 99% of what I do, it's meaningless. Any benchmark that shows 64-bit computing as substantially faster (like Sharky illustrated on the Conroe article with ScienceMark) has just unveiled itself as a synthetic test that most people will never use. Tasks that can really benefit from 64-bit floats/integers can already be done more efficiently with MMX/SSE/SSE2/SSE3. The only thing 64-bits really adds is the ability to address more than 4GB of RAM, so until we're all running 4GB of RAM it isn't necessary.
  • AnandThenMan - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link


    What has AMD really done new in the past three years? They've integrated the memory controller into K7, and they've pushed 64-bits onto us. I still haven't done any 64-bit computing, because for 99% of what I do, it's meaningless.

    You have no idea what you are talking about. Zero. x64 is very, very important and valuable. Just because YOU don't see any benefit is meaningless. So I suppose Vista 64 bit edition is meaningless too. And I suppose x64 in the server space is meaningless, even though smart people are demanding it to the point where AMD can not make the Opteron fast enough. 64 bit applications are going to be EVERYTHING, especially in 4,8,16 and more processor/core settings. Unless for starters, you think 4 gigs of RAM is more than enough moving forward. :nuts: Meaningless indeed.

    AMD has the interconnect infrastructure that will take them into multi-core, mult processor territory that Intel can only DREAM about. Couple that with x64 and Intel seems lost in the wilderness by comparison. What's next from Intel, a 64 meg shared cache?

    Conroe is a short term solution, period. It may put Intel temporarily back in the thick of things. But it does not solve Intel's hopelessly outdated FSB mentality. It does not solve the fact that Intel has no idea how to add x64 to their mobile parts. It does not change the fact that AMD will be further extending x64, forcing Intel to play catch up again. It does not change the fact that Intel's x64 bit hack is actually slower than running in 32 bit mode.

    Sorry, but we have all seen this movie before. Go back and read the Intel hype and press releases from the last 3 years. They are nearly a carbon copy of what is happening now.
  • jjunos - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    lol fanboi alert.

    If you read his post, he was stating that general users will probably never see a tangible performance improvement from 64bit computing.

    Tho that doesn't account for architectual changes to implement 64bits.
  • NullSubroutine - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    reason for changing:

    1) lower power requirements for primarily laptops and servers
    2) changing to ddr2 helps the industry not make two different main memory types
    3) gives more bandwidth for quad cores across entire product line
    4) released before back to school business (time related - gives them enough time to saturate the market with the technology)
  • Calin - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Unified socket interface - this way, anyone could use the same mainboard with processors from the lowly Semprons (at some $50) to the ultrahigh FX line ($1000). This helps the small shops in the retail channel, as they won't need to stock so many mainboard types (socket related).
  • fikimiki - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    You forgetting one fact regarding AM2 platform. It is going to support four-core CPU.
    And using DDR2 AMD will be able to support four memory hungry cores (ups forbidden word).
    The product launch and availability of X4/Opterons will be September I think to be faster than Intel for sure.

    AMD is playing with us, because need best performance processors to stay on top of Intel offer. Why? The capacity is the answer. It is better to sell 1 CPU for 2000$ than 10 for 170$. Q2/Q3 AM2/939 is enough for first wave of Conroes. Then we will see X4 and other fun stuff like K8L to keep Intel and to extend the FAB3x capacity.
  • Shintai - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    There is a few errors tho.

    Making 4cores on 90nm is suicide. It would be a massive sized chip, and we would talk of speeds of like 2.0-2.4ghz peak and a massive TDP. I guess a chip like that fastly would cost 2000$+
    So don´t expect a 4 core chip from AMD before 65nm, so sometimes in 2007. The chance of having a 4core chip failing under production right now is massive. Also a 4core chip takes waffer space as said, so again, AMD wont ship many CPUs. So unless you want AMD to be a server vendor only..then no. 4 core AMD chips will start in the highend servers i presume, we talk Socket F here.

    Intel comes with a 4 core (2 DC bolted) in Q1 2007 as a desktop. Later on they will make a "real" 4core chip. But this is the most wise and profitable way to start with, take 2 working dualcores and get a quadcore. Cheap and easy.

    Sure one 2000$ CPu is better than 10 or 20 170$ chips. But they are just killing themselves that way and you wont see them in any desktop anymore then. But maybe thats Hectors plan, all new AMD developments look very serverside.

    Also no 2006 roadmaps for AMD shows quadcores...
  • Calin - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Even with the FSB interconnect (core to core) in Intel's current Dual Cores, their performance (in real applications) isn't degraded so much. That is, considering their performance in core-to-core data transfers is lower than half of AMD's current dual cores.
    If you can make single cores at 80% rate of success (and 20% failures), then dual cores on a single chip would take some 20% + (1-20%)x20%, or 36% bad, and quad cores would take almost 60% failures. Compare this to two bolted dual cores at 36% failures, and as a result, Intel can produce almost twice as many two chips quad cores than single chip quad cores. Is the performance hit significant? We don't know very well (for quad cores). For dual cores, the performance hit is existant but (right now) not so significant (based on scalability from two to four cores servers between Opteron and Xeons).

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