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New processors from AMD for the new socket, in a new box

Launching the new Athlon 64 processors in the Socket 939 form-factor, AMD put the AMD64 architecture on a new level. Starting selling these CPUs, AMD solves several problems at a stroke:

First, Socket 939 becomes a “stable platform” with a lifecycle stretching to 2006. Thus, AMD makes a step towards end-users who want to have low-cost upgrade opportunities.

Second, the new processor socket offers dual-channel memory access to the owners of the Socket 939 platform. I can’t say that the two channels give the Athlon 64 a great advantage in speed (the performance gain from enabling the second memory channel is 3-5% in average). Well, no one promised any performance breakthroughs from the transition to Socket 939, but the improvements in the memory controller allow users to flexibly configure the memory subsystem and use four two-sided DIMM modules in their systems, while Socket 754 processors only supported two two-sided memory modules.

Third, AMD achieves a 25% reduction of the manufacturing cost of Socket 939 processors by cutting their L2 cache in two. This move will bring in profits and will also allow manufacturing cheap Athlon 64 models to ensure their popularity in the market.

The performance level of today’s Athlon 64 processors is astonishing. I won’t claim that top-end Athlon 64s are always faster than top-end Pentium 4s, as the NetBurst architecture is very good in some applications. However, across a majority of tasks, including games, the Athlon 64 provides an excellent performance.

Thus, the new Athlon 64 models in the Socket 939 form-factor may become a good choice for a high-performance computer system. Moreover, the AMD64 architecture has its main trump up the sleeve yet – support of 64-bit applications. At the same time, it’s early yet for AMD to claim victory. First, the next models of the Athlon 64 with a higher frequency won’t come out soon, as they need 90nm tech process to be manufactured. Second, we haven’t yet seen Intel’s processors with x86-64 architecture. Third, Intel is going to introduce its new platform, the i925/i915 chipsets and new faster CPUs on the Prescott core. All this may shatter AMD’s now-firm positions in the market. Let’s not anticipate, though.

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