More AMD Dual-Core
Undoubtedly there will be concerns raised over the X2 naming convention. When wouldnít an Athlon 64 X2 4200+ appeal more than an Athlon 64 4000+? For gaming, to begin. Losing 200 MHz, half the available cache, and paying more just doesnít sound that attractive if your primary focus is gaming. Then again, AMD has made reasonable efforts to explain that single-core processors, particularly from the FX family, will deliver better gaming performance in the immediate future, an effort for which itís to be commended.
Another promotional shot of the chip
In other environments where multi-tasking might be more heavily emphasized or where encoding tasks employ the two cores simultaneously, AMDís naming scheme makes a lot more sense. Itís entirely plausible that an X2 4200+ would outmaneuver a single-core 4000+ in Windows Media Encoder 9, despite the loss in cache and frequency. Naturally, as time progresses and more software developers show favor toward threading, that gap will increase toward dual-core. For the time being, though, how much of an advantage a dual-core processor retains over a single-core chip remains a function of how itís used.
AMD voices its opinion on the matter with a pricing schedule. And as the model numbers would indicate, the dual-core X2 4200+ is indeed going to cost more than an Athlon 64 4000+. The former is expected to run $537 in 1,000 unit quantities, while the latter costs $482. The 2.2 GHz 4400+ should run about $581, while the 4600+ tips the scales at $803. If youíre looking for a 4800+, expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000.
As a point of reference, the top-end Opteron 175 runs a pricey $999, according to AMDís expected 1,000 price stack. Given the choice between a 4800+ running at 2.4 GHz and an Opteron 175 at 2.2, the extra $2 for the Athlon is a no-brainer, even in a workstation environment. Of course youíll pay more for the privilege of using two or more sockets, as an Opteron 275 is listed at roughly $1,300, but thatís another market entirely.
The other important distinction between Opteron and the Athlon 64 X2 lies in platform deployment. With Opteron, the message was any motherboard capable of supporting a 90nm processor would support dual-core. This time around, AMD says every single Socket 939 platform will accommodate an Athlon 64 X2, given a requisite BIOS update. The interface was developed as Socket 940 teethed, and is better able to support a 110W processor. Athlon 64 X2 fits into the same power budget as its predecessor and is fully capable of employing the same cooling solutions sold to those with single-core Athlon 64 chips.
Though the ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard used for our tests wielded a beta BIOS without many overclocking options (it doesnít help that the Athlon 64 X2 doesnít sport an unlocked multiplier), we were still able to manipulate the boardís front side bus setting. The 2.4 GHz chip was good for 2.7 GHz, though not quite stably. It turned out that 2.64 GHz was manageable at DDR400 settings and CAS 2.5 timings. With those results in mind, we realized WME 9 results 20 seconds faster than the stock configuration, 3DMark05 scores 70 points higher, Sandra 2005 memory bandwidth scores above 6.3 GBps, and Half-Life 2 frame rates almost match the Athlon 64 FX-55 exactly. Though perhaps not an ideal overclocking platform, the methodical gamer should be able to extract the same performance from a 4800+ as youíd get from an FX-55 in single-threaded apps.