At long last, we finally get an opportunity to take a first look at shipping Athlon64 motherboards. The first Athlon64 boards at Anandtech seem almost equally divided between the VIA K8T800 chipset and the single-chip nVidia nForce3 150. Unlike the wide performance differences we see on Athlon between KT600 and the nForce2 Ultra400, performance of VIA and nVidia with Athlon64 is practically a dead heat. Each chipset offers certain unique advantages and weaknesses; but as a buyer, you can evaluate fairly the Athlon64 boards with an eye to features and assume that they will perform similarly – whether they are nForce3 or K8T800. This may change, as we may see one or the other pull ahead over time, but our early testing shows that there is virtually no performance difference between the chipsets.

So where do these new Athlon64 motherboards fit in the new offerings announced today by AMD? The top performer from AMD is called AthlonFX51, and it is more like an Opteron than an Athlon64. This new FX Socket 940 processor, in fact, requires an Opteron motherboard, and at least Registered DDR memory (or Registered ECC) to get it running. The memory you have now is likely unbuffered DDR and it will not work on AthlonFX. FX51 runs Registered or Registered ECC memory in Dual-Channel mode. AMD is projecting small numbers of FX chips and boards going to Computer Enthusiasts until the relaunch of FX early next year in a Socket 939 that can use regular unbuffered memory like you already own.

The new mainstream AMD is Athlon64, a Socket 754 chip that will run your regular unbuffered memory up to DDR400, but in single-channel mode only. The 3 boards for today are all Athlon64 boards tested with AMD’s new Athlon64 3200+. AMD has also announced it will release the Athlon64 in 3400+ speed rating in a few weeks. The upcoming 3400+ runs about the same real speed as the new Athlon64FX51.

The real question is whether Athlon64 can now compete effectively with Intel or outperform the P4 with their mainstream offering. That is a question we hope to answer in these reviews. We also hope to shed some light on whether the Single-Channel Athlon64 is really hampered in competing with the top Pentium 4 chips. The answers may surprise you.

For more in-depth CPU information, please read Anand Shimpi’s Technology Review posted today. He delves deeper into the positioning of the new chips and does in-depth performance comparisons of Athlon64, Athlon64FX, and the Intel P4 chips. If you are confused about the new chips, the speed ratings, or comparative performance, please read Anand’s excellent overview of the new CPU’s. While we will compare performance of the 3 Athlon64 boards with the fastest P4 and Athlon XP offerings in our recent tests, we are comparing performance of 3 motherboards all running an Athlon64 3200+ CPU to the best from our recent Performance tests.

This is the first installment of a larger Athlon64/FX motherboard roundup that will be coming as more boards are delivered to our Lab. With all the significant new hardware and offerings in the market, we will also be updating our benchmark suite to measure and compare better the performance of the newest equipment.

The Chaintech ZNF3-150, FIC K8-800T, and MSI K8T Neo all take different approaches to building a performance motherboard. While the features will be compared, in the end, we are most interested in how the Athlon64 motherboards perform.

nVidia nForce3 Chipset
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  • Anonymous User - Friday, September 26, 2003 - link

    I old too, but still keep buing from AMD, Intel is way too expensive for as in Latin America, and give no clear advantage for a programmer/gamer like me.
    If you been having problems with AMD, surely your are building AMD chips with PCCHIPs mainboards, and Pentiums with Intel boards, you are a smart guy!
    So, if you gonna build a modern PC, you'll experience problems becouse WinXP didn't include drivers for new chipsets, so, for it all going like a charm, you need an Intel Pentium III and a Intel 2001's mainboard, anything newer, you gonna have to look for drivers, whatever the platform you choose.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - link

    #10 -
    You are absolutely correct in theory. However, when we moved from the Ti4600 to the ATI 9800 PRO, our encoding scores on the P4 went up about 35-45%. Don't ask me why. They did not change on the Athlon, which had led in this area before. That is one of several reasons we will be changing to another encoding benchmark.

    If you doubt what I say, check Evan's 20-board 865/875 roundup done with the Ti 4600, then check the retest of some of the top boards we include in our more recent P4 reviews. Evan did the original and the update tests, and I have confirmed his results.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - link

    Since when does the video card have ANYTHING to do with DivX encoding? That is a purely CPU and RAM issue, even playback is not influenced too much by the video card anymore (speed not quality...that is an entirely different issue).
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - link

    Hey, could you please touch on what DAC chip is powering these setups? A picture would be nice too.

    Envy 24bit audio would be an utter waste if some crap Realtek codec was used. It would be good if this was highlighted so that motherboard manufacturers catering to the higher end of the market will take notice.

    Chaintech apparantly took note of the fact that you guys bashed every single board that had the ATX connector near the board i/o ports. Despite it being a non issue. That thick bundle can be routed so that the interference with airflow is minimised.
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - link

    Please, please, please stop using Flash for graphs.
  • dvinnen - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    #5: Youe funny. Constant screw ups? It's Intell who has had to have 3 or so recalls over the last 4-5 years. And theres that bug with the Itantic which the only way to fix is to lower the clock to 800 mhz. AMD is the one who keeps screwing up?
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    #3 and #4 - Thank you. Now corrected.

    Just before posting we decided to combine the 3 reviews into one larger launch review. Unfortunately I had used the same name for two different pictures and the first one was picked up. There is a socket closeup of the FIC that never made it to the server.
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    yeah, about the only good thing coming out of this is the price drops soon. Otherwise still the same stupid +-5FPS differences = waste of time/effert to get excited about.

    i used to love amd, but just got tired of their constant screw ups, so anymore i personally don't care what stupid thing they come out with, i won't waste my time with it.

    Perhaps that's cuz i'm older now and have a good job/salary and don't need/care about overclocking and or paying a few bucks more for intel quality/stability. yeah, must be just getting to be an old fogey, cuz this whole amd/intel wanna-be-war doesn't give me a hardon like it used to ;)
  • Thoreau - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    Correction, Page 11 in the index list. First pic.
  • Thoreau - Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - link

    The 2nd page of the FIC section shows a pic from the Chaintech board. Think you got that a little mixed up there.

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