Articles: CPU

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The current year 2004 turned out the year when the major processor developers, AMD and Intel managed to master a more advanced 90nm production technology. Intel performed the transition to this finer manufacturing process in winter already, together with the launch of the new Prescott core for the Pentium 4 processor family. AMD is just starting the mass production of the Athlon 64 mobile processors manufactured with 90nm technology, and since September 15, 2004 we see the desktop Athlon 64 processors based on the new 90nm cores. This way, AMD managed to introduce the 90nm technology without any visible delays, according to their initial schedule.

When Athlon 64 processors with 90nm cores appeared, people pinned a lot of hopes and anticipations upon them as well as quite a few concerns. While some enthusiasts expected that with the introduction of the new 90nm production technology AMD would be able to increase the frequency potential of AMD Athlon 64 processor family and enrich the list of its features, the others were pretty concerned with it, believing that this technological advances would cause certain problems with the leakage current, just like Intel had during Prescott production.

Luckily, we managed to get hold of one of the mass Athlon 64 processors from AMD based on the new 90nm core. Thanks to this fact we got a beautiful opportunity to test all the features of the updated AMD processors ourselves. In other words, this whole article is going to be devoted to Athlon 64 processors for desktop systems manufactured with the new 90nm technological process.

90nm Production Technology in Athlon 64: Details Revealed

At first let’s take a look at the AMD’s roadmap:

As we see, AMD is planning to introduce the new 90nm production technology in all market segments this year. So far they managed to complete 2/3 of this plan: 90nm Oakville and Winchester cores are already used in mass production of mobile and desktop CPUs respectively. Oakville and Winchester cores actually boast similar features that is why today we are going to take a closer look at Winchester core primarily, because it is used for the desktop Athlon 64 CPU family.

The major distinguishing feature of the Winchester core besides the 90nm production process is the 512 L2 cache and dual-channel memory controller supporting DDr400 SDRAM. This way, 90nm Winchester core can be considered an analogue of the 130nm NewCastle core used in Socket939 CPUs in the first place. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that the first Athlon 64 processors to use the new Winchester core appeared CPUs for Socket939 platform.

AMD engineers didn’t do any redesigns when working on the Winchester core. In fact, Winchester is the same NewCastle with that only difference that it is produced with a more advanced and up-to-date 90nm technology. However, we cannot deny that there were still a few minor architectural improvements made to it, which definitely had a positive effect on its performance compared with the performance of the predecessor, as we will see later during the benchmark results discussion. However, AMD doesn’t try to draw all the attention to the improvements of the 90nm core. The new D0 core stepping is remarkable primarily by the fact that it allows AMD to considerably reduce production costs.

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