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Foreword on CPUs and Platforms

For many years I only dealt with Intel processors on testbeds, while my home systems were all built exclusively on AMD CPUs. Everything started long time ago with an AMD Athlon 750 Slot A CPU. There was a processor die in the middle of a PCB with two external cache-memory chips on both sides of it. This whole thing was placed into a humongous cartridge the size of a graphics card, only much thicker because of the cooling system. Then I stayed for quite some time with a renowned Socket A platform, a little bit with Socket 754 and then for a while again with Socket 939. What didn’t I like about Intel processors? There are, in fact, several different reasons. I didn’t like the constantly changing chipsets and sockets, when you had to replace the mainboard when you wanted to upgrade to a CPU with higher clock speed. For example, there were three types of Socket 370. I didn’t like Rambus memory, Pentium 4 processor microarchitecture and high heat dissipation of the Prescott cores. I didn’t like very confusing model lineup evolution, when the first Pentium 4 Willamette CPUs were slower than Pentium III, and the processors on the new Prescott core fell behind those on Northwood. Moreover, I wasn’t happy about the high prices on Intel processors that is why I always went for AMD CPUs that seemed to work perfectly for me from all aspects.

Of course, it would be incorrect to claim that I paid no attention whatsoever to Intel CPUs. However, I could totally satisfy my personal curiosity in the lab, where I could see their advantages as well as drawbacks in action. And I didn’t have any intention of switching over to Intel platform until things turned around in summer of 2006 when Intel announced their new processor microarchitecture implemented in Conroe. Spring of 2007 was the last time I tested a few Socket AM2 mainboards and purchased my very first Intel Core 2 Duo processor. After that I forgot about AMD platform for two long years. I don’t see the point investing into a platform that is guaranteed to be slower than the competitor even after overclocking. However, it would be unfair to say that nothing changed. AMD processors were now made with 65nm process, but ironically they followed Intel’s footsteps when the new Brisbane CPUs turned out slower than the old Windsor ones. The next milestone was the long-anticipated and still very disappointing AMD Phenom launch: Intel CPUs remained unattainably ahead. Time went on, priced continued to drop and finally we welcomed the new AMD Phenom II.

I would like to remind you that we have the whole bunch or materials on our site related to the new AMD solutions launched this year:

The review titles suggest that situation has turned around for AMD, although there were no revolutionary changes introduced in the new AMD processors. Intel CPUs still hold the performance leadership, however, the users have to put up with a lot of negative consequences resulting from this impressive speed, such as high power consumption, heat dissipation and extremely high price. Top processor and graphics card models have become mostly expensive toys for editors and dedicated enthusiasts. The developers use their flagship solutions to demonstrate their technological and intellectual superiority, while the regular users who follow the reviews of all flagship solutions with great interest in the end purchase absolutely different more mainstream components. This is where things have changed recently: nothing drastically new, but all the little changes combined together produced a serious breakthrough for AMD – their CPUs got in the spotlight of public interest again. The transition to new manufacturing process, microarchitectural changes, improved overclocking potential and reasonable price made AMD Phenom II processors serious competitors to junior models, i.e. more mainstream dual- as well as quad-core Intel CPUs.

We don’t know how long it is going to last, as Intel is preparing an extremely promising LGA1156 platform already, prices may change as well. So let’s take the advantage of the present moment and get back to talking about AMD platform. Today we are going to use AMD Phenom II X4 810 CPU to investigate the features and functionality of the new Socket AM3 mainboard from Asus – M4A78T-E based on AMD 790GX chipset.

 
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