Socket-F vs. Woodcrest

We first started contacting AMD for a Socket-F platform a few weeks before its release date. Typically, when we receive a platform from AMD, it consists of a couple of CPUs, a main board and some memory. This time around AMD decided to send full platforms from a vendor called Colfax (one of AMD's solutions partners). Note that we used the plural of platform: AMD made a fairly bold move and sent a Woodcrest system as well. Both of the systems were configured identically: same case, power supply, hard drives, DVD-ROM and cooling (minus the CPU fans).

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Of course any loyal Intel fan is going to cry foul, but rest assured we checked to see that there was no foul play here. The BIOS settings were configured as identically as possible, the fans were all running inside the case, etc. We've wanted to do this kind of comparison for awhile but lacked the equipment in the lab to create two identical systems. As we alluded to above, the only component that wasn't the same was the processor cooling. Intel's thermal design for most Xeon systems is an air duct that is fed by a hefty 6" fan on one side and vented out the rear of the case (see pictures on the next page). This usually produces a system that sounds like a miniature wind tunnel, at least for the server versions. There are of course a few other differences, but most of those relate to the platform: registered DDR2 vs. FB-DIMMs, different chipsets, and different motherboards were used, but that will always be the case.

What's new with Socket-F?

Socket-F isn't a huge technological leap for AMD; the most notable change is the move to DDR2 memory. Besides the new memory type however, Socket-F brings hardware virtualization acceleration and better power consumption. All of this is fabricated into a new 1207-pin LGA socket, similar to the LGA design of socket 775 only with more pins in the CPU socket. Here's a quick overview of the currently shipping 2-way Socket-F Opterons.

AMD Socket F Overview
Model Clock Power Consumption
2210 1.8GHz 95W
2212 2.0GHz 95W
2212 HE 2.0GHz 68W
2214 2.2GHz 95W
2214 HE 2.2GHz 68W
2216 2.4GHz 95W
2216 HE 2.4GHz 68W
2218 2.6GHz 95W
2220 SE 2.8GHz 119.2W

The Systems
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  • yyrkoon - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link


    Some might wonder if a different - read Intel - motherboard for the Woodcrest system could have significantly altered the outcome of these tests

    After reading about FB-DIMMS, and the direct comparison to DDR2, I can not help but wonder, IF it were possible to use these Xeons with standard off the shelf DDR2, how well the Xeons would compare. Maybe this correlates with the quoted text above from your article, I do not know, as I don't know a lot about server grade equipment. Well, at least not "cutting edge" server equipment.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    FB-DIMMs definitely use more power, and there's technically nothing to prevent someone from making a dual socket Xeon board that uses DDR2 or even DDR (or DDR3, etc.) instead of FB-DIMMs. However, for now Intel has decided that FB-DIMM DDR2 is the way they're going for workstation/server platforms, so all we can do is wonder "what if...?"
  • Furen - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Huh? As I understand it there IS a difference. The FB memory controller is different and the pin configuration is significantly different, as half the pins connect to the memory controller, the other half connect to the next DIMM on the same channel. Then there's also the fact that having quad-channel DDR2 would require an insane amount of traces while quad-channel FB requires roughly the same amount of traces.
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - link

    Speed / power difference, silly . . .
  • mino - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    What has the memory controller to do with the possibility of sticking 2 Woodcrests on DDR2 chipset ???
    The only thing to play is the FSB compatibility.

    BTW, NVIDIA is stepping in so such a platform is pretty much possible in 2007. SLI Quadro anyone...
  • joex444 - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    Interesting, not what you mom said last night. Oh, who got pwned?
  • glennpratt - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    He didn't say there isn't a difference, did he?
  • ltcommanderdata - Monday, December 18, 2006 - link

    I guess AMD is encouraging many sites to do this heads on comparison since Tech Report has one too with similar systems. They swapped in a pair of 2.67GHz X5355 Clovertons too which was interesting. It's good that you put in a pair of E5150s though since that's probably more comparable to the 2nd from the top 2.6GHz 2218s that AMD provided.

    What I would love to see is data points for the top of the line 2.8GHz 2220SE, to see if the power numbers are actually that much worse, and a 2.4GHz 2216HE to see if the power numbers are that much better. I'd also be interested in seeing a pair of 2.33GHz 5148 Woodcrests reviewed since I haven't seen anyone look to see how much better the LV chips are compared to regular 65W and 80W Woodcrests.

    It may not be that fair a comparison, but inclusion of the 2.67GHz X5355 Cloverton like Tech Report did would also be informative. Although, data for the 2.33Ghz E5345 Cloverton is probably more important since it still offers a 1333MHz FSB while keeping a 80W TDP of the lower parts, theoretically putting it in the sweet spot for performance/watt.

    It should probably be pointed out too that Tech Report also tried a 4x2GB configuration for the FB-DIMMs and they found they saved 22W or something, compared to a 8x1GB configuration. That's something to note for system configurators and leaves more room for future expansion too.

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