The Question on Everyone's Mind: Is AM2 Faster?

We've structured this CPU review a little different than in our past, organizing the content into answers to a series of questions that we had about Socket-AM2 and the performance of the platform. The first question on everyone's mind is, of course, is Socket-AM2 any faster than Socket-939. When we previewed AM2 we concluded that no, it wasn't, however we were using pre-release hardware and it was possible that the performance had changed since then. But the following statement from AMD pretty much confirmed exactly what we expected:

"A fair expectation for performance gain from 939-pin to AM2 is about 1% or more across various application-based benchmarks. That assumes equal model numbers for processors and an equal configuration. This also assumes premium memory is used for each configuration."

With AMD telling us that we should expect about a 1% increase in performance, it doesn't look like Socket-AM2 will have much to offer in the way of performance. Of course we needed to confirm for ourselves, and the table below shows just that:

Benchmark - Athlon 64 X2 4800+ Socket-939 (DDR-400) Socket-AM2 (DDR2-800) % Advantage (Socket-AM2)
Cinebench 9.5 Multi-Core Rendering Test 660 658 0%
3dsmax 7 2.79 2.78 0%
Adobe Photoshop CS2 183.2 s 180.2 s +1.6%
DivX 6.1 54 fps 54 fps 0%
WME9 42.2 fps 42.7 fps +1.2%
Quicktime 7.0.4 (H.264) 3.12 min 3.10 min +0.1%
iTunes (MP3) 35 s 35 s 0%
Quake 4 - 10x7 (SMP) 133.1 fps 138.6 fps +4.0%
Oblivion - 10x7 56.1 fps 58.0 fps +3.3%
F.E.A.R. - 10x7 114 fps 116 fps +1.8%
ScienceMark 2.0 (Bandwidth) 5397 MB/s 6844 MB/s +27%
ScienceMark 2.0 (Latency 512-byte stride) 47.3 ns 42.72 ns +9.7%

The numbers we're seeing here today for Socket-939 vs. Socket-AM2 are virtually identical to what we saw last month in our preview. Socket-AM2 doesn't appear to offer any tangible improvement in performance except for within certain games and of course in the memory bandwidth and latency tests. Thankfully, on final hardware, we're at least not seeing any drop in performance.

The good news is that if you've just invested in a new Socket-939 platform, you're not leaving any performance behind by not having an AM2 system. The bad news is that, for AMD, the only performance increases this launch will bring are because of the speed bumps of the Athlon 64 FX-62 and the X2 5000+.

Energy Efficient AM2 CPUs Does AM2 Reduce the Impact of L2 Cache Size?


View All Comments

  • mlittl3 - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    Until K8L (which will have microarchitectural improvements), there are a few things that could allow AMD to look good against Core 2.

    1) Price drops so that comparable K8 and Core 2 processors are the same price giving the same performance/$ ratio (this metric is important for the budget constrained)

    2) Nov. '06 release of 65 nm AM2 processors so that K8 and Core 2 processors will have the same performance/watt ratio (65 nm could give K8 a 20% drop in power and with Core 2 being 20% faster, they will have the same performance/watt ratio which is popular now). Also, everytime AMD transitions to a new die process they add some minor bug fixes and minor memory/microarchitectural enhancements which could also boost performance by a few percent.

    3) Continual improvements to DDR2 latency might yield a 2-2-2 DDR2 800 memory module which will probably benefit K8 more (maybe ~5% improvement) than Core 2 but this is a wild guess here and I don't know if it is even possible. However, DDR400 latency started around 4-4-4 and dropped to 2-2-2 so it could happen.

    With the same performance/price and performance/watt as Core 2, K8 could stay competitive and OEMS and users decide on which company (if not both) they would like to do business with. This is all speculation and of course everyone is more than welcome to rip my reasoning to death.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    I seriously doubt we will ever see DDR2-800 running at 2-2-2 timings. (Feel free to quote me on this in the future and make fun of me if I'm proven wrong. :-)) Just think how long we had DDR memory around, and no one ever managed to create 1-1-1 DDR-400 memory. I do think we will see 3-3-3 DDR2-800, and possibly even higher bandwidth with those timings. In fact, we almost have that already judging from my experiences so far with socket AM2. (I can post and run benchmarks, but I wouldn't call the system 100% stable.) Reply
  • mlittl3 - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    LOL! I will! Reply
  • MacGuffin - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    From Patriot's PDC22G8000+XBLK Rev. 2 review on PCSTATS.
    Rated for DDR2-667 @ 3-3-3-9 (Maintains those timings through DDR2-940!)
    Rated for DDR2-1000 @ 4-4-4-12 (Goes Up to DDR2-1020!)
    Completely stable on the Intel platform they used. It's extremely expensive (saw it for $400+ at NewEgg). But yes, it is possible to run 2GB at these timings already. Its just extremely expensive.
  • EdisonStarfire - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    any opinions on AMD offering a Clearspeed solution as stop-gap in the high end desktop arena ? Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    The bottom line is, we now know what we knew last fall, or rather (rightfully) assumed.


    AMD does have one last trick up its sleeve before the end of the year, and you will hear about it in June. It's not K8L and it's not going to affect the majority of people, but it is an interesting stop gap solution for the high end in 2006...

    Now you made me curious. Could that be the "noise in june" which Henri Richards mentioned in a Register interview earlier this month?

  • smn198 - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - link

    It is called quad-core. Reply
  • temp2 - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    The article has a similar teaser at the end, but it is slightly more specific:

    "And given recent discussions with AMD, we can safely say that the company hasn't launched its last FX series CPU for the year quite yet."
  • mino - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - link

    This provided, 3.2 or even 3.4 FX's on 65nm are on the way... Reply
  • Scrogneugneu - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    Beware the mighty Sempron FX 32 ! Reply

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