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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  • Thor33 - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    It seems the test was done with the fastest memory available in fact is a PC2-8000 1000mhz rated. OCZ EL DDR2 PC2-8000 / 1000 MHz / Platinum XTC / Extreme Edition">
    Unless there is a typo on the test memory utilized below is PC8000 drop down to work as PC2-6400?
    PC2-6400 OCZ PC8000 DDR2-800 4-5-4-15 (1GB x 2)
    OCZ DDR-400 2-3-2 (1GB x 2)

    The test should be a PC2-6400 which is DDR2-800 mhz rated memory. If this test is performed with an average memory maker DDR2 PC2-6400 memory the score will be even less impressive. This is worth mentioning.

    Rated at DDR2-1000, this OCZ announces right off the bat that it is serious new memory. Past DDR2 has struggled to reach DDR2-1000, so rating this new OCZ at DDR2-1000 is a "look-at-me" announcement. The rated timings of 4-5-4-15 at DDR2-1000 are also exceptionally fast for DDR2 memory at that speed. By the way, for those of you who have trouble translating PC speed ratings to Memory Speeds, all you have to do is divide by 8. Thus PC2-8000 is DDR2-1000 speed, PC-5400 is DDR2-667 (results are approximate), PC2-6400 is DDR2-800, etc.

  • waldo - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I haven't heard anything about changes in regards to the opteron platform, or are they staying the same. I would assume they would change to use the ddr2 memory as well.

    I actually can't see how purchasing a new AM2 system is good for anyone, whether a new system or upgrading. With prices being higher, almost double, and parts being barely similar in performance with premium boards, memory, etc., it doesn't seem like a good idea for anyone to hop on early to the AM2 platform. Just seems like a waste of a lot of money. In this case, the latest is not the greatest.
  • bob661 - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Where are the double prices? The ram is more money but everything else looks to be the same. According to">this, the prices for the CPU's are the same as current one's. I doubt the motherboards will cost more than the typical new release prices.
  • petz - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    What was the date code on the CPU? Why no screenshot showing that the CPU was at least recognized? The BIOS memory settings are meaningless if the CPU is not properly recognized. I would have done a disk benchmark, because the fact that the poorest result was from Business Winstone tells me that something was wrong in that department.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    The shots of the chip itself were kept out of the review to protect our source for the chips obviously. A difference of 0.1 points in Business Winstone is within the normal margin of error (< 3%) for that benchmark, the difference itself is basically 0. The CPU was also recognized properly by the BIOS.

    Take care,
  • nicolasb - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    It seems to me that socket AM2 is likely to be just a stepping stone. Current AMD processors don't need DDR2 - but the next generation will.

    Conroe seems likely to stamp all over AMD for a few months. The point when things will get interesting again is when we see quad-core processors begin to ship from both Intel and AMD.

    AMD's architecture has been tuned for multi-processor systems right from the start. Post-Conroe quad-core chips may be a bit clunky - effectively two dual-core chips glued together, in the same kind of way that Pentium D is two single-core chips glued together. AMD may therefore regain the lead in the quad-core arena - if there are no other limiting factors, such as memory bandwidth.

    If a dual-core chip is using barely half of the available memory bandwidth of DDR2-800, what that means is that a quad core chip will not be significantly limited by memory bandwidth. I think this is what AMD is planning: they will need DDR2 bandwidth for quad-core, and they want to switch over to it now to get all the bugs ironed out in time for K8L. So socket AM2 has no significance for the current generation of chips, and was never meant to have: it's merely preparation for 2007.

    If this is true, then the fact that current chips use only half the available bandwidth may actually be deliberate, and something that won't change.
  • sprockkets - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I like your post.

    Remember the KT266 fiasco? Then KT266A, then KT333, then KT400?

    Yeah, the KT266A killed everything, when the KT266 showed no performance gains and just like then, said memory bandwidth is useless for AMD Athlons.

    Except the problem here is, to get an updated "chipset" or memory controller, you have to upgrade the processor and perhaps the board, and AMD has already done 3 rev of the processor.
  • MrKaz - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    PC133 SDRAM > DDR at early stage
    PC133 SDRAM > RDRAM at early stage

    It will improve on next revision I bet, I was expecting 0% improve.
    This is just a RAM type exchange.

    You AMD systems users must show appreciation to AMD for the excellent platform they developed.

    With Intel each time there is a memory speed bump, you "have" to upgrade the motherboard because of the memory controller on the chipset, even if Intel decides to keep the same socket. How many times since DDR266 have Intel “forced” people to upgrade motherboard/chipset in order to catch up every time there is a memory speed bump?

    Even at the same RAM speed Intel “offers” (example) 865 and 875 chipsets where one is faster than the other with the same RAM?

    Since AMD integrates the memory controller, you never get problems like that. AMD integrated memory controller is compatible with DDR 266 to 400 (unofficial 433,466,500).
    With DDR2, you will get 533,667,800 (unofficial 933, 1066).
    You always keep the same board and RAM. The processor is the only that changes.
    If AMD didn’t get socket 754, and only 940 or 939 we where looking at the perfect computer platform.
  • Calin - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    RDRAM was a very bad choice for the processors to which was first mated. Pentium !!!, like the Athlons of today, fare better on low latency lower bandwidth memory than on high latency high bandwidth memory (as RDRAM was). However, RDRAM has its place in small devices - where you can not fit all of the 168 pins of SDR memory, or all of the 180+ of the DDR memory.
    Pentium 4 was doing very well on RDRAM, dual RDRAM was quite a bit faster than dual SDR or single DDR. There was a time when intel 850 with dual RDRAM was the high mark in the chipsets
  • flyck - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    RDRam had a LOWER latency then DDR.

    Mainly because of the superior chipset design (which had less internal latency).

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