A possible release of Sempron processors in the Socket 939 form-factor was rumored since the very moment when AMD decided to transfer its value processor series to the progressive K8 architecture. On the roadmaps AMD showed to its partners in the summer of 2004 there were Socket 939 Semprons beside the Socket 754 models. However, Semprons for Socket 939 didn’t appear on the market at that time despite all the preparations. Why? AMD’s partners were just afraid the Socket 754 platform they had put so much money and effort into would die prematurely. So AMD had to release the Sempron only in the Socket 754 form-factor in order to support the whole Socket 754 infrastructure.
The lifecycle of the Socket 754 platform became longer as a consequence, while AMD separated its platforms even more by stopping to release new Athlon 64 CPUs for Socket 754. The Socket 754 platform has eventually come to be viewed as a foundation of an inexpensive computer, with limited upgrade opportunities.
The potential buyers were not, however, worried much about the deficiencies of Socket 754 – Sempron CPUs and appropriate mainboards have been selling very well due to a number of factors. First, Sempron processors based on the K8 architecture are highly competitive against Intel’s low-end Celeron D series. Second, Sempron CPUs have a high overclocking potential, so they can be made to perform like mainstream Athlon 64 models. And third, CPUs of this series have steadily acquired all the basic features of Athlon 64 processors, including the 64-bit AMD64 extensions in the first place. As a result, Socket 754 Semprons currently account for about 50% of AMD’s total shipments which is an outstanding achievement.
Semprons based on the K8 architecture didn’t let the Socket 754 platform die too soon, yet its lifecycle is drawing to the end. This is partially due to the transition of the Athlon 64 series to the new socket (Socket M2), scheduled for 2006, after which AMD’s processors will be able to work with DDR2 SDRAM. Following this transition, the Socket 939 platform will move down from the high-performance class into the entry-level sector, filling in the niche that is currently occupied by Socket 754. Another argument against Socket 754 is that some PC suppliers aren’t happy with a separate, low-end systems-oriented platform as they have to diversify their product range especially for it. These factors make AMD revise its vision of the relations between the two sockets and push the company to mass production of affordable Socket 939 processors.
As a matter of fact, AMD has long been making Semprons for the Socket 939 platform, but only for computer manufacturers rather than for retail sales. For example, Fujitsu-Siemens and HP have been offering Socket 939 Sempron-based PCs almost since the beginning of this year. About 10% of all Semprons based on the K8 architecture were made in Socket 939 packaging in the first half of 2005 to meet the demand of leading PC suppliers and this percentage has grown up more by today, of course.
And since there are so many Socket 939 Sempron processors produced, we could expect them to emerge in the retail market, too, sooner or later. And last week we really spotted such processors in a few retail shops here, in Moscow. And since the Socket 939 Sempron may be like a completely new processor for many users, we decided to buy one and test it our labs.