AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ Dual-Core Processor Review

We are beginning our investigation of the desktop dual-core processors performance. In this review we are going to tell you everything about the AMD dual-core solution: general info, performance tests, overclocking experiments, power consumption and heat dissipation analysis.

by Ilya Gavrichenkov
05/08/2005 | 09:11 PM

The time of dual-core processors has come.  The CPUs equipped with two computational physical cores will start their invasion into desktop PCs in the near future. By the end of next year most new computers should be already equipped with dual-core processors.

 

The developers have been working hard on introducing dual-core architectures for a reason: all other means of growing the processor performance have already been exhausted. The clock frequencies cannot be increased that easily any more, and the higher bus frequency as well as larger cache size do not provide the expected efficient result. At the same time the improvement of 90nm production technology has finally reached the point when the manufacturing of super-large 200sq.mm dies turned profitable. This is exactly the reason why processor manufacturers began to integrate dual-core architectures into our life so actively.

So, today on May 9 2005, AMD followed into Intel’s footsteps and also pre-released its dual-core desktop processors. However, just like in case of Smithfield CPUs (Intel Pentium D and Intel Extreme Edition), we are not talking about the beginning of shipments yet. These processors are going to start shipping somewhat later. Right now AMD gives us the chance to take a closer look at what they are going to offer the market quite soon.

The dual-core processor family from AMD is called Athlon 64 X2. This name reflects not only the fact that the new dual-core solutions are based on AMD64 architecture, but also the fact that they are designed with two physical cores inside them. Besides the name, the dual-core desktop processors also acquired a new logo:

Athlon 64 X2 processor family will include four CPUs by the time it hits the stores. These will be 4200+, 4400+, 4600+ and 4800+. Their price will range from $500 to $1000 depending on the performance level. In other words, AMD positions its Athlon 64 X2 processor family a little bit higher than the regular Athlon 64 CPUs.

However, before we make our judgment about the efficiency of the new processors, let’s take a closer look at their features.

Athlon 64 X2 Architecture

I would like to point out that the implementation of dual-core design in AMD processors is different from what we have seen by Intel. Although Athlon 64 X2 is actually a combination of two Athlon 64 processors in a single piece of silicon, the way these cores communicate in a dual-core solution from AMD differs from what Intel offered in its Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition.

The thing is that Intel simply placed two Prescott cores into a single chip. In this case, the CPU has no special mechanisms for communication between the cores. In other words, the Smithfield cores communicate (to solve the cache coherency problems, for instance) via a system bus, just like the two CPUs in dual-processor Xeon based systems. As a result, the system bus is also shared by the processor cores when they work with the memory, which leads to higher latencies when both cores have to address the system memory.

AMD engineers kept in mind the future dual-core designs when they started working on the AMD64 architecture already. Therefore, dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors managed to avoid a few bottlenecks. Firstly, far not all the resources are duplicated in the new AMD processors. Although each of the two Athlon 64 X2 cores features its own set of execution units and individual L2 cache memory, the memory controller and the Hyper-Transport controller are the same for both cores. The two cores communicate with the shared resources via the special Crossbar-switch and System Request Queue. The communication between the cores is organized on the same level that is why cache coherency issues can be resolved without loading the system bus and the memory bus.

This way the only remaining bottleneck of the Athlon 64 X2 architecture is the memory subsystem bandwidth of 6.4GB/s, which is shared by the two processor cores. However, AMD is planning to switch to faster memory types next year. In particular, they are going to be using dual-channel DDR2-667 SDRAM. This should have really positive influence on the dual-core processors performance in particular.

The new dual-core processors do not support contemporary types of memory with high bandwidth because AMD was trying to retain the compatibility of the new Athlon 64 X2 with the today’s platforms. As a result, the new processors can be used in the same mainboards as the regular Athlon 64 solutions. That is why Athlon 64 X2 are designed in Socket 939 package, feature dual-channel memory controller supporting DDR400 SDRAM and work with Hyper-Transport bus at 1GHz frequency. So, the only thing you will need to ensure that your Socket 939 mainboard supports the new AMD CPUs will be the BIOS update. Here I have to stress that AMD engineers were lucky to fit the power consumption of their new Athlon 64 X2 into the already set requirements.

So, the new AMD dual-core processors appeared better compatible with the already existing infrastructure than their Intel competitors. Intel's dual-core Smithfield based processors are compatible only with the new i955X and NVIDIA nForce4 (Intel Edition) chipsets and require more powerful voltage regulator on the mainboards.

Athlon 64 X2 processors are based on the Toledo and Manchester cores with E stepping, i.e. their functionality is similar to that of the Athlon 64 processors on San Diego and Venice cores (except for the ability to process two computational threads simultaneously). Athlon 64 X2 also supports SSE3 instructions and features an enhanced memory controller. Among the peculiarities of the memory controller of the new Athlon 64 X2 I would like to mention the support of different memory DIMMs in different channels (it even allows installing memory modules of different capacity in different channels) and the support of up to four double-sided DIMMs in DDR400 mode.

Athlon 64 X2 (Toledo) processors featuring two cores with 1MB of L2 cache memory per core consist of about 233.2 million transistors and are 199sq.mm big. So, as we have actually expected, the die size and the complexity of the dual-core CPU appeared almost twice as big as the die of a single-core processor.

Athlon 64 X2 Processor Family

Athlon 64 X2 processor family includes four CPU models with the 4800+, 4600+, 4400+ and 4200+ ratings. They can be based on Toledo and Manchester cores. The difference between these two cores lies with the size of the L2 cache memory. Toledo codenamed processors with the 4800+ and 4400+ ratings feature two L2 caches (one for each core), each 1Mb big. Manchester codenamed processors feature twice as little cache memory: two times 512KB.

AMD dual-core processors work at pretty high clock frequencies: 2.2GHz or 2.4GHz. In other words, the clock frequency of the top dual-core AMD processor equals that of the top Athlon 64 processor model. It means that even in applications that do not support multi-threading Athlon 64 X2 will still run pretty fast.

As for the electrical and thermal characteristics of the new processors, Athlon 64 X2 are hardly any different from the single-core CPUs, despite their relatively high working frequencies. The maximum heat dissipation of a processor with two cores is 110W against 89W of the regular Athlon 64, and the current rose to 80A vs. 57.4A by the single-core CPU. However, if we compare the electrical specifications of the Athlon 64 X2 with those of the Athlon 64 FX-55, the maximum heat dissipation will be only 6W higher, and the peak current value will be just the same. So, we can conclude that Athlon 64 X2 processors set pretty much the same requirements to the mainboard voltage regulator as Athlon 64 FX-55. The complete list of the Athlon 64 X2 lineup characteristics looks as follows:

Processor

AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core

Model

4800+

4600+

4400+

4200+

Marking

ADA4800DAA6CD

ADA4600DAA5BV

ADA4400DAA6CD

ADA4200DAA5BV

Core revision

E6

E4

E6

E4

Clock frequency

2400MHz

2200MHz

Hyper-Transport frequency

1GHz

Vcore

1.35-1.40V

Max. temperature

65°C

Max. heat dissipation

110W

L1 cache

128KB

L2 cache

1MB + 1MB

512KB + 512KB

1MB + 1MB

512KB + 512KB

Production technology

90nm SOI

Package

Socket 939

I would like to note that AMD positions its Athlon 64 X2 as an entirely independent processor family designed for its specific user group. The CPUs from this processor family are targeted for advanced users who intend to use a few resource-hungry applications at a time or who work with digital content creation applications, most of which support multi-threading. In other words, Athlon 64 X2 looks like a certain analogue of the Athlon 64 FX designed not for gamers but for PC enthusiasts using their computer for work.

At the same time the launch of Athlon 64 X2 CPU family doesn’t interfere with the markets for all the already existing families: Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 and Sempron. All of them will stay in the market.

I would like to specifically stress that Athlon 64 X2 processor family and Athlon 64 processor family have unified ratings system. It means that Athlon 64 processors with the ratings above 4000+ will never appear in the market. At the same time, the single-core Athlon 64 FX CPUs will keep developing, because the gaming community does want more of these processors.

The price point of the new Athlon 64 X2 processors suggests that they can be regarded as the continuation of the regular Athlon 64 CPUs. In fact, this is true. While the top Athlon 64 models will move into the mainstream price range, their positions will be taken by the Athlon 64 X2.

The newcomers are expected to start selling in June. Here are the recommended AMD’s retail prices:

Athlon 64 X2 4800+: First Look

We managed to get our hands on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ sample, which is the top model in the dual-core processor family from AMD so far. This processor looked very similar to the predecessors. In fact, it was only the marking that distinguished it from Athlon 64 FX and Athlon 64 for Socket 939:

Although Athlon 64 X2 is a regular Socket 939 processor, which should be compatible with most Socket 939 mainboards, it doesn’t yet work with many mainboard models because of no adequate BIOS support. The only mainboard we managed to have this CPU work with just fine in our lab was ASUS A8N SLI Deluxe. They have already released a special technological BIOS version for this board supporting Athlon 64 X2. However, it is evident that once AMD dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors appear in the market the problem will be resolved.

You should note however that the new Athlon 64 X2 processors work perfectly well in single-core mode in any mainboard without the necessary BIOS update. It means that without the BIOS update our Athlon 64 X2 4800+ processor worked like Athlon 64 4000+.

The CPU-Z utility doesn’t provide complete info about the new Athlon 64 X2 yet, although it does recognize it.

Although CPU-Z detects both cores, all the info it displays about the cache memory refers to only one core.

Before we get into details of the new processor performance tests we decided to take a closer look at its thermal and electrical parameters. At first we compared the temperature of Athlon 64 X2 4800+ with that of other Socket 939 processors. For our experiments we used an AVC Z7U7414001 air cooler. The CPUs were warmed up with the help of S&M 1.6.0 utility, which turned out compatible with the dual-core Athlon 64 X2.

In idle mode Athlon 64 X2 is slightly hotter than Athlon 64 CPU on Venice core. However, despite two cores, its temperature doesn’t exceed that of the single cores solutions manufactured with 130nm technology. Moreover, the same picture can be observed in the burn mode, too. Athlon 64 X2 loaded to 100% appears cooler than Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX based on 130nm cores. So, AMD engineers managed to achieve acceptable level of heat dissipation for their dual-core CPUs thanks to lower Vcore and E core revision.

During our investigation of Athlon 64 X2 power consumption we decided to compare it not only with the single-core Socket 939 processors but also with the power consumption level of the top-of-the-line Intel solutions:

Strange as it might seem at first glance, but the power consumption of Athlon 64 X2 4800+ appears lower than that of Athlon 64 FX-55. However, the explanation is very simple: Athlon 64 FX-55 is based on the old 130nm core, so there is nothing strange about the obtained results, actually. The main conclusion we would like to draw here is different: the mainboard compatible with Athlon 64 FX-55 can also support dual-core processors (speaking about the voltage regulator power). In other words AMD is absolutely right stating that almost the entire infrastructure required for successful integration of the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors into the contemporary market is already there.

Of course, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to check out the overclocking potential of the new Athlon 64 X2 4800+. Unfortunately, the technological BIOS for the ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe mainboard supporting Athlon 64 X2 doesn’t allow changing the processor Vcore and its clock frequency multiplier. That is why all our overclocking experiments were carried out at the nominal processor Vcore. We simply increased the clock generator frequency.

During our experiments we managed to raise the generator frequency to 225MHz and the CPU remained stable. It means that we have actually managed to increase the working frequency of AMD’s dual-core processor to 2.7GHz.

We managed to increase the working frequency of our Athlon 64 X2 4800+ CPU by 12.5%, which seems to be a pretty good result for a dual-core processor. So, it indicates that the frequency potential of the new Toledo core is close to that of the other revision E cores: San Diego, Venice and Palermo. We can say that the result of our overclocking tests gives us some hope that we will one day see even faster processor models in the Athlon 64 X2 family, before new production technology hits the road.

Testbed and Methods

During this test session we compared the performance of the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ processor with the CPUs based on single-core architecture. In other words, Athlon 64 X2 will compete with Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Pentium 4 and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition.

Unfortunately, we cannot yet offer you a detailed performance comparison with the dual-core Intel solution aka Smithfield, however, in the nearest future our benchmark results will be updated and we will offer you the comparison of our today’s hero against Pentium 4 D and Pentium Extreme Edition, so stay tuned.

Right now our tested platforms include the following:

Performance in Office Applications

For our performance tests in office applications we used SYSmark 2004 and Business Winstone 2004 test packages.

Business Winstone test emulates the user’s work in the following popular apps: Microsoft Access 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft FrontPage 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Project 2002, Microsoft Word 2002, Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition 2003 and WinZip 8.1. The obtained result is pretty natural: all these applications do not support multi-threading that is why Athlon 64 X2 is just a little faster than its single-core fellow, Athlon 64 4000+. This small performance advantage we saw is most likely to be coming from the enhanced memory controller of the Toledo core rather than from the second core the CPU acquired.

However, everyday office work may sometimes require a few applications working simultaneously. The results below show if dual-core AMD CPUs turn out more efficient in this case:

Here we are measuring the performance in Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer, while there are files being copied in the background. However, as you can see from the diagram below, file copying is not such a complicated task, so the dual-core architecture provides no advantages here.

The next benchmark is a little bit harder. We have a number of files being archived in the background by Winzip utility, while the user is working in Excel and Word. This time dual-core architecture shows its best. Athlon 64 X2 4800+ working at 2.4GHz clock rate outperforms not only Athlon 64 4000+ but also a single-core Athlon 64 FX-55 working at 2.6GHz.

As the tasks in the background become more complex, dual-core architecture proves more and more efficient. This time the test is emulating the user’s work in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Access, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft FrontPage and WinZip, while there is antivirus software working in the background. Here the applications manage to load both Athlon 64 X2 cores pretty heavily, and the result doesn’t keep you waiting for long. As we see, dual-core processor appears 1.5 times faster than the single-core on working at the same frequency.

Here the test is emulating the user’s work when he is receiving an e-mail in Outlook 2002 with a number of documents in a zip-file attached to it. While the files are being scanned for viruses with the VirusScan 7.0, the user is looking through the e-mails and makes noted in the Outlook calendar. After that the user checks a corporate web-site and some documents through Internet Explorer 6.0.

This model of user work implies multi-threaded algorithms that is why Athlon 64 X2 4800+ appears faster than single-core AMD and Intel solutions. Note that Pentium 4 processors supporting “virtual” multi-threading technology aka Hyper-Threading cannot boast the same efficiency here as Athlon 64 X2 with two physical independent cores.

In this test the hypothetical user is editing some test in Word 2002 and uses Dragon NaturallySpeaking 6 to convert an audio file into a text document. The document is then converted into pdf-format in Acrobat 5.0.5. After that the prepared document is used to create a PowerPoint 2002 presentation. Athlon 64 X2 wins again.

In the next test we see the following situation: the user opens a database in Access 2002 and creates a number of requests. The documents are archived with WinZip 8.1. The request results are exported into Excel 2002 and a diagram is created. Although dual-core architecture again shows its clear benefits here, Pentium 4 processors manage to win the round.

All in all, I could say the following about the use of dual-core processors in office work. The applications of this kind are very rarely optimized for multi-threaded workload. That is why a dual-core processor will hardly guarantee you any performance gain in a given individual application. However, if your work implies that there would be resource-hungry applications running in the background, it could definitely make a lot of sense to have a dual-core processor.

Performance in Digital Content Creation Applications

In this section we will again run some SYSmark 2004 and Multimedia Content Creation 2004 complex benchmarks.

This test emulated the user’s work in the following applications: Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1, Adobe Premiere 6.50, Macromedia Director MX 9.0, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 6.1, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 Version 9.00.00.2980, NewTek LightWave 3D 7.5b, Steinberg WaveLab 4.0f. Since most applications for creation and processing of digital content do support multi-threading, the success of our Athlon 64 X2 4800+ processor is not surprising at all. I would even like to stress that this processor appears faster even when we do not have a few applications running at the same time.

When several applications are working in parallel, dual-core processors demonstrate even more impressive results. For example, here we have an image rendered by 3ds max 5.1 into a bmp-file, while the user is preparing web-pages in Dreamweaver MX. Then the user renders some 3D animation into vector graphics format.

Now we are emulating the user’s work in Premiere 6.5, when he is creating a video movie in raw-format from a few other movies and separate sound tracks. While waiting for the operation to be completed, the user is also modifying and saving to the hard drive a picture in Photoshop 7.01. When the video is finished, the user does the necessary editing and adds special effects to it in After Effects 5.5.

Again we see the gigantic advantage of the AMD dual-core architecture over the regular Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX as well as over the Pentium 4 with the “virtual” multi-threading implementation – Hyper-Threading technology.

And this is another triumph of the dual-core solution from AMD. And the reasons are just the same as in the previous case: they lie in the work model. Here, our hypothetical user extracts from the zip-archive the web-site content and at the same time opens an exported 3D vector video in Flash MX. Then the user modifies it by adding some new pictures and optimizes it for faster animation. The final video with applied special effects is then compressed with Windows Media Encoder 9 so that it could later be broadcast via internet. The created web-site is then composed in Dreamweaver MX, while the system is scanned for viruses with VirusScan 7.0.

So, we have to admit that dual-core architecture proved extremely efficient for applications working with digital content. Almost any tasks of the kind can load both processor cores simultaneously, which definitely speeds up the entire system.

Performance in PCMark04, 3DMark 2001 SE and 3DMark05

We decided to take a separate look at the performance of our Athlon 64 X2 processor in the popular synthetic benchmarks from Futuremark.

As we have already mentioned a few times earlier, PCMark04 test is optimized for multi-threaded systems. Therefore, Pentium 4 processors with Hyper-Threading technology have always performed better in this test than Athlon 64 CPUs. Now the situation has changed. Two physical cores of the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ processor put it on top of the hill.

The graphics tests from the 3DMark benchmarks do not support any type of multi-threading. That is why the results shown by Athlon 64 X2 are hardly any different from those of the regular Athlon 64 processors working at 2.4GHz. A slight advantage over the Athlon 64 4000+ can be explained by the enhanced memory controller of the new Toledo core, and the advantage over Athlon 64 3800+ - by large cache memory.

However, there are a few tests in the 3DMark05 set that can actually take advantage of multi-threading support. In these tests the CPU is performing software emulation of vertex shaders, while the second thread is calculating the physics for the gaming environment.

The results are quite logical. If the application can use two processor cores simultaneously, then the dual-core CPUs will definitely perform faster than the single-core ones.

Performance in Gaming Applications

Unfortunately, contemporary games do not support multi-threading. Even though “virtual” multi-core technology, Hyper-Threading, appeared long time ago, game developers do not rush to split the calculations performed by the gaming engine into multiple threads. And it is not about the complexity of this task for gaming needs. It looks like the increase of the processors computational power is not that important for games, because it is the graphics card that bears the maximum workload in this sort of apps.

However, the arrival of the dual-core processors gives use some hope that very soon we will see game developers put more workload on the system CPU. It can result into a totally new generation of games with advanced artificial intelligence and realistic physics.

In the meanwhile it doesn’t make any sense to upgrade to a dual-core CPU in a gaming system. This is actually one of the reasons why AMD is not going to give up the development of their gaming processor family: Athlon 64 FX. These CPUs work at higher clock frequencies and feature only one computational core.

Performance in Data Compression Applications

Unfortunately, WinRAR doesn’t support multi-threading that is why our Athlon 64 X2 4800+ performed almost the same as the regular Athlon 64 4000+.

However, there are some archiving utilities that can make good use of the dual-core architecture. Take, for instance, 7zip. The results obtained in this application make the price you pay for the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 absolutely justified.

Performance during Audio and Video Encoding

The popular Lame mp3 codec didn’t support multi-threading until recently. However, the new 3.97 alpha 2 version of this software knows to work with multiple threads. So, Pentium 4 processors are now encoding audio faster than Athlon 64, and Athlon 64 X2 4800+ manages to outpace its single-core counterparts but fails to beat Pentium 4 and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition.

Although Mainconcept codec can use two computational cores at a time, Athlon 64 X2 doesn’t work very much faster than its single-core fellows. In fact, it owes this advantage not that much to the dual-core architecture, but to the SSE3 instructions support and enhanced memory controller. So, single-core Pentium 4 processor turns out faster in Mainconcept than Athlon 64 X2 4800+.

During MPEG-4 encoding in the popular DiVX codec, we see a totally different picture. The second core of Athlon 64 X2 CPU makes it much faster, so that the new AMD CPU outperforms even the top Pentium 4 solution.

XviD codec also supports multi-threading, although the second core doesn’t ensure the performance growth as significant as in the previous case when we considered the DiVX codec.

No doubt that Windows Media Encoder is the best optimized codec for the multi-core processor designs. For example, Athlon 64 X2 4800+ encodes data 1.7 times faster than the single-core Athlon 64 4000+ working at the same clock rate. Therefore, it doesn’t make any sense to talk about any competition between dual- and single-core processors in WME.

Just like digital content creation applications, most codecs have already been optimized for Hyper-Threading. As a result, dual-core processors, which can handle two computational threads at a time, also perform the encoding faster. In other words, dual-core processors are a good choice for audio and video content encoding tasks.

Performance during Video and Image Editing

Well-known Adobe software for video processing and image editing are optimized for multi-processor systems and Hyper-Threading technology. Therefore, dual-core AMD CPU appeared extremely fast in Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere. It got dramatically faster than not only Athlon 64 FX-55, but also Pentium 4 CPUs, which have always been better in this type of tasks.

Performance during Text Recognition

Pretty popular ABBYY Finereader utility for optical character recognition is optimized for CPUs with Hyper-Threading technology, but works as a single thread only with the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors. It looks like there is an evident software bug there: the multi-threading support is detected by the CPU model name.

Unfortunately, there are more examples of such software bugs out there today. We can only hope that there are very few applications like ABBYY Finereader, and this number will one day become 0.

Performance in Scientific Applications

Strange as it might seem, but the Windows XP versions of popular math1ematical packages, such as MATLAB and Mathematica, do not support multi-threading. Therefore, Athlon 64 X2 4800+ runs like Athlon 64 4000+, getting just a little faster sometimes due to better optimized memory controller.

However many math1ematical modeling tasks can split the calculations into better optimized parallel threads thus ensuring a significant performance improvement in case of dual-core CPUs. You can see it from the results of our ScienceMark test.

Performance during 3D Rendering

Final rendering is one of the tasks that could be split between multiple parallel threads easily. That is why no wonder that the new Athlon 64 X2 processor based on two physical computational cores ensures a notable performance improvement.

We can see the same picture in Lightwave. So, we can conclude that dual-core processors are as efficient during final rendering as they as for video and image processing.

General Impressions

Before we voice our verdict about the dual-core newcomer from AMD, we would like to say a few words about the things, which we haven’t yet touched upon. I am talking about the comfort of using a computer system equipped with a dual-core processor. The thing is that if there is one single-core CPU in your system, such as Athlon 64, for example, there is only one computational thread processed at a given moment of time. It means that if there a few applications running on this system at the same time, the OS scheduler will have to switch the resources between the tasks at higher frequency.

Since contemporary CPUs are very fast, the user hardly ever notices this switch. However, there are certain applications, which cannot be interrupted that easily, so that the processor time could be given to other tasks in the queue. In this case the OS will experience delays, which may be quite irritating for the user. Also, you can sometimes see the application freeze after the CPU resources have already been taken, and in this case the application is really hard to end, because it wouldn’t return the resources even to the OS scheduler.

Problems like that can occur in systems with dual-core CPUs over 10 times as rarely. The thing is that CPUs with two physical cores can process two computational threads at a time, which frees twice as many resources for the scheduler to distribute between the working applications. In fact, there should be two processes trying to get all CPU resources simultaneously for the system with a dual-core CPU to become uncomfortable to work on.

In conclusion we decided to undertake a small experiment showing how the simultaneous processing of multiple resource-hungry applications can affect the performance of systems with a single- and dual-core CPU. For this purpose we measured the fps rate in Half-Life 2 running with a few copies of WinRAR archiving utility in the background.

As we see, with Athlon 64 X2 4800+ CPU in the system the performance in Half-Life 2 remains acceptable for a much longer period of time than in case we have an Athlon 64 FX-55, even though the latter worked at higher clock rate. In fact, even if there is only one application running in the background on your single-core processor based system, the performance will get two times lower. The more background tasks you’ve got, the greater is the performance drop.

If there is a dual-core CPU in the system, you can maintain acceptable performance level in the primary application for a much longer period of time. One WinRAR copy running in the background remains almost unnoticed, and if there are more applications added to it, the influence on the performance in the primary task will be noticeable, but will not be that dramatic at all. Note that in this case the performance will drop mostly not because of the lack of processor resources, but because of the memory bus bandwidth limitations, as it has to be shared between all those applications, in other words, if the tasks in the background do not need to work with the memory that much, then the performance of the primary application will hardly be affected at all by the growing background workload.

Conclusion

Today we have taken the first close look at the dual-core AMD processors. According to the results we obtained during this test session, the idea to combine two physical cores inside a single CPU proved highly efficient.

The use of dual-core solutions in desktop systems can significantly improve the performance in a number of applications supporting multi-threading. Since Pentium 4 processors have had “virtual” multi-threading support implemented in Hyper-Threading technology for a long time already, the software developers are offering quite a lot of applications where you can benefit from dual-core architecture. Among the applications where dual-core solutions will ensure a dramatic performance improvement we could list video and audio encoding tools, 3D modeling and rendering systems, photo and video editing applications and professional graphics CAD applications.

Besides there is a lot of software that doesn’t support multi-threading at all or has very limited support for it. Among these tasks are office applications, web-browsers, e-mail clients, media players and games. However, even in these applications you can still enjoy some benefits of the dual-core processor architecture. For example, when there are a few tasks running simultaneously.

Summing up everything we have just said, we would like to offer you one more last diagram where we illustrate the performance advantage of the new AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ dual-core CPU over the single-core Athlon 64 4000+ working at the same clock frequency of 2.4GHz.

As you can see from the diagram, Athlon 64 X2 4800+ appears much faster than its counterpart from the Athlon 64 family. And if it were not for the crazily high price of the new Athlon 64 X2 4800+ exceeding $1,000, I would definitely call this processor a great choice. Especially, since it doesn’t fall behind its single-core fellows in any applications.

Keeping in mind the price of the new Athlon 64 X2, we have to admit that these CPUs can so far be regarded as one more excellent choice for wealthy hardware enthusiasts, just like Athlon 64 FX. Those who care most about the performance in applications other than games will definitely pay due attention to the new AMD Athlon 64 X2 processor family. Extreme gamers, however, are most likely to stay dedicated to Athlon 64 FX.

Well, we are just beginning a series of test sessions of the dual-core processors in our labs. In the next few days we are going to offer you the second part of our review devoted to the dual-core solution from Intel.