The monarch caterpillar is a stunning blend of black, white, and yellow color that devours milkweed for a couple of weeks before disappearing into a chrysalis. There’s no doubt that the little insect is beautiful in its own right, but the butterfly that emerges 14 days later is undeniably more anticipated by naturalists.
Although it might be a stretch to compare AMD’s Athlon 64 to a monarch butterfly, the former’s life cycle is looking a lot like the latter. Launched last year in late September, the Athlon 64 FX-51 quickly earned the respect of gaming enthusiasts for blowing past Intel’s 3.2GHz Pentium 4 in a majority of benchmarks. The promise of impending 64-bit software support sweetened the deal, and AMD seemed to have a hit on its hands.
It quickly became clear, however, that the Athlon 64 FX-51 was simply a rebadged Opteron processor, with platform requirements to match the expensive workstation solution. Moreover, AMD had plans to metamorphose its Socket 940 lineup into a new interface with support for conventional unbuffered DDR memory, called Socket 939. Every subsequent product launch bore the same caveat: “This is great, but the best is yet to come.”
After spending several months as an attractive caterpillar, the Athlon 64 family has emerged from its chrysalis – what we’ve been waiting for – in all of its Socket 939 glory. It’d be oversimplifying the situation to say that AMD chopped one pin off of its flagship workstation part to eliminate the registered memory requirement, but in essence, that’s what we’re dealing with.
Of course, platform support is an integral part of AMD’s processor launch, and as such, we should see NVIDIA’s nForce3 250Gb and VIA’s K8T800 Pro chipsets out in full force. For our initial tests, AMD provided us with MSI’s 6702E motherboard based on the VIA core logic.
Old FX-53 and new FX-53, side by side
Again, from the bottom
The New Athlon 64 FX-53
The core specifications of AMD’s Athlon 64 FX-53 are very similar to its 940-pin predecessor. That is, it still boasts 128KB of L1 cache and 1MB of L2. It still runs at 2.4GHz, sporting a 128-bit (dual-channel) DDR memory controller with support for PC3200 modules. It’s manufactured on the same 130nm SOI process and comprised of 106 million transistors.