AMD's Gem: Athlon 64

When you have an architecture that has been talked about publicly for a couple of years and when all of your partners have had access to CPUs for almost as long, it becomes very tough to keep things a secret. Leaks occur and it would be an understatement to say that AMD was plagued by a few leaks, so most of the information you're about to hear has been published elsewhere and already alluded to.

With that said, AMD has brought two versions of their K8 architecture to the desktop market - branded the Athlon 64 and the Athlon 64 FX. The Athlon 64 is the 754-pin ClawHammer that we've been hearing about all this time, while the Athlon 64 FX is little more than a higher clocked 940-pin Opteron.

Let's start with the regular Athlon 64; contrary to surprisingly popular belief, the regular Athlon 64 does include an on-die memory controller - what it doesn't include is the on-die 128-bit memory controller found on the Opteron. Instead, you will find only a single-channel 64-bit memory controller with the Athlon 64. This on-die memory controller supports regular unbuffered DDR SDRAM at speeds of up to DDR400.

The other major difference between the Athlon 64 and the Opteron is that the Athlon 64 only has a single Hyper Transport link. Remember that the K8 architecture does not have any external "Front Side Bus" instead, serial Hyper Transport links connect the CPU to external chips such as a South Bridge, AGP controller or another CPU. With only one Hyper Transport link, there's no hope for the Athlon 64 to be used in multiprocessor environments as the sole Hyper Transport link would be tied up by the South Bridge/AGP controller. This lack of multiprocessor support is in direct contrast to the "lack" of multiprocessor support with the Athlon XP, which you could use in multiprocessor configurations; with the Athlon 64 it is physically impossible (unless you don't want any BIOS, hard drive or expansion slot support).

AMD originally announced that the Athlon 64 would have a 512KB L2 cache, however after continued delays and increased competition the Athlon 64 was given a full 1MB L2 cache. As we mentioned before, the 128KB L1 cache remains unchanged from the original Athlon XP and its exclusive nature means that the Athlon 64 has a total of 1088KB of cache for data storage (the remaining 64KB is for instruction storage).

The Athlon 64 will continue with AMD's model numbering system, although with a revised test suite. The end result is that AMD is much more conservative with their ratings, meaning that an Athlon 64 3200+ is inherently faster than an Athlon XP 3200+, despite carrying the same model number. As you've undoubtedly heard, the only Athlon 64 available at launch will be the 3200+, which will run at a 2.0GHz clock speed. The 2.0GHz clock speed is arrived at by taking the 200MHz Hyper Transport clock and multiplying it by a 10.0x clock multiplier. Currently there isn't a way to adjust the multiplier of Athlon 64 CPUs, so the potential for overclocking exists by increasing the Hyper Transport clock.

In Q4 AMD will launch the Athlon 64 3400+, which we'd assume would be clocked at 2.2GHz. The 3400+ will be the last Athlon 64 for 2003, and although we will see lower clocked versions in the mobile space, that will be it for desktops. The 3400+ will be introduced at around $600.

The Athlon 64 3200+ will sell for $417 in 1,000 unit quantities.

Where does 64-bit help? Sigh, the Athlon 64 FX


View All Comments

  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 17, 2003 - link

    In response to anonymous "Intel Boy" (biased, biased, biased) you can be in love with Intel if you choose. My experience has been that AMD processors have always been smother running and they run cooler than Intel which increases processor life. The AMD64 is in its infancy. It will get better in the months to come. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    sorry I mean#107 Reply
  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 8, 2003 - link

    To #117 you wrpote is totally truth but do u think a lot understand it ? thanks anyway :)) Reply
  • Anonymous User - Monday, October 6, 2003 - link

    For #4 and other intel fan boys.
    I understand that you are in furious, you think as chip costs higher it is better and you paid much more money for intel and what? It usually is deafeted by AMD again and you feel sorry especially after the scandal with BAPCo where became clear that BAPCO is witing benchmarks for intel to show tham in better lighte heh even in sys marks 2002 which is "broken" and AMD doesn't recognize this bench even in this test which must not be used by anand athlon51fx is better than 3200EE of intel. and I can't understand how u can defend Intel when thic processor has 3.2 Gghzs and is DEAFETED BY 2200Gghz ? more than 1.2 Gghz handicap. I'll never bye intel even in due of this caus here is clear for even the dumbiest donkeey which technologie is better. thats why real computer specialists always prefare AMD and love tham.
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 3, 2003 - link

    These benchmark figures appear as if the P4 was used in a single channel setup. Does anybody know if this is correct? Also, ECC DDR-400 chips are very hard to come by, prohibitively expensive, and aren't available with low latencies. I don't think FX systems will be price competitive. What good is the high memory limit when you can only afford 512Mb, or a fast CPU with C3 memory? Too bad. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 3, 2003 - link

    Hi, this is about your Athlon 64 Vs. Pentium 4 article, specifically the use of Quake3 as a CPU benchmark when comparing AMD vs. Intel cpus, as shown on this page

    Let me say the article is great, no complaints there. I know it takes alot of work to produce these articles.

    Now, I see two reasons for using a game as a cpu benchmark:
    1) It presents a fair (emphasis on the word 'fair') comparison of the competing cpu architectures and scaling issues.
    2) The game itself is of current interest to the community.

    In your article you already concede 2). Quake3 itself is not relevant as a game to anybody. Quake3-derived games are another matter, and are still popular and certainly relevant. More on these later.

    I believe there is strong evidence that Quake3 does not provide a fair benchmark for comparing *modern* (AthlonXP and possibly Athlon64 as well) AMD cpus vs Intel cpus. The reason being (and let me emphasize that I don't know this as an verified fact, I'm going on what a couple of programmers involved with helping AMD produce optimized game code have told me) that the Quake3 cpu recognition code does not recognize the AthlonXP as an SSE-capable cpu. Not only that, but the 3DNow code in Quake3 is apparently non-functional for this cpu.

    The politics and history behind this are interesting, but probably boil down to the AthlonXP being released well after Quake3, and Carmack being rightly uninterested in patching an old game.

    If this is true, you are benchmarking two equally SSE-capable cpus against each other, using a game engine which enables SSE for the Intel cpu and *disables* SSE for the AMD cpu (apparently there's no simple way to force SSE recognition either), for no valid reason, other than the game is too old to know about the AMD cpu's capabilities. What would be even worse is if this same recognition problem carries over to the Athlon64 (I have no word on this) and to newer Quake3-based games.

    Again, assuming this is true, it removes any rationale for using a 3-year old game that: a) few people play, b) which gives ridiculously high scores, and which c) unfairly handicaps AMD cpus; as a benchmark to be used specifically in comparing AMD cpus vs their Intel competitors in articles such as this one.

    So. Here are the recommendations I, as an interested Hardocp/Anand/Toms reader (and admitted AMD fan) am making to you and your site:

    1) Investigate this matter further, and write an article discussing it. And in particular discuss the relevance of this cpu issue to current Quake3-based games. Assuming there is in fact an Intel bias to Quake3-based benchmarking I think people would be very interested to learn about it. Apparently the SSE issue does indeed carry over to later games.

    2) Assuming there is a bias, discontinue using Quake3 as a cpu benchmark, and especially discontinue it's use when comparing AMD vs Intel cpus. The game will never be patched to fix this issue, and using 3rd party fixes noone cares about is more or less pointless too. I'm referring to the dlls on this page:

    This guy is one of the programmers I referred to earlier, and he tells me the dlls do not enable SSE where it really matters anyway. The other was a student working at AMD writing assembly 3DNow code. The best solution is simply to retire this benchmark, just as Q1 and Q2 were retired.

  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 2, 2003 - link

    Not to be a ball buster, but in your paragraph:

    "For starters, at a 192mm^2, the Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX are well above AMD's "sweet spot" for manufacturing. When we last talked with AMD's Fred Weber, 100 - 120mm^2 die size is ideal for mass production given AMD's wafer size, yields and other manufacturing characteristics - and the Athlon 64 is close to twice that size"

    If you calculate it out, the 64FX is closer to 4x the die size of the "sweet spot". 192mm x 192mm = 36864 sq mm. The "sweet spot" is 100mm x 100mm = 10000 sq mm. Sorry, just figured I'd point that out.

  • Anonymous User - Wednesday, October 1, 2003 - link

    don't hold your breadth1 as far as ms is concerned the visual studio compilers is still not truly 32 bit let alone be 64 bit. without such compilers you cannot get 64 bit apps

    Even Winxp so claimed to be redisigend from bootom up is not true. Well its desigend from broken pieces on the ground hurriedly glued together. How come you still have a System and a System32 folders in c:\Windows??? Thats the 16bit and 32 bit DLLs. Why the sudden Blue scren of death? Same old problem - confilcts between DLLs.

    Try writing code in Visual STudio and query the WinOS ver - for WinXP you will get WinNT as the response. HOw can a truly ground up redesigned OS behave as such? Beats me?

    Until such time that WinXX OS is truly 32bit or 64 bit you cannot have any true 64 bit apps running.

    The BIOS also have problems. nFOrce2 still buggy and not properly fixed - can you trust nForce3? If those guys cannot fix up nForce2, then nForce3 is gonna have lots more problems.
  • Locutus4657 - Tuesday, September 30, 2003 - link


    On what exactly are you basing your arguments? You obviously have no experience or knowledge of Win64... If you did you'd realize 64 bit versions of Windows NT date back to NT4 on DEC Alpha hardware... You obviously have no clue what so ever... Try posting a relevant argument next time... Try something based on benchmarks, and heck, next try even putting it into context as to how you use your computer...
  • Anonymous User - Monday, September 29, 2003 - link

    all i know is i bought amd stock for less than $5 a few months ago and it's on the way to tripling in value. perhaps i'll use the profits to buy another one of their chips. Reply

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