Our friends from Advanced Micro Devices have been pretty busy for some time now with the preparations for the AMD Athlon 64 processor launch and we are expecting it to be massive. This world’s highest-anticipated processor of the year (according to X-bit labs poll results) has already given birth to dozens of rumours and assumptions and sometimes it is not clear where is the correct and where is not correct information. In order to understand what AMD is preparing, let us try to summarize the more or less plausible unofficial facts floating around the World Wide Web.
We do know that AMD plans to launch its Athlon 64 microprocessors on the 23rd of September for sure. The company itself also said some time ago that it will first launch processors in Socket 754 packaging with only one memory-channel.
We tested Athlon 64 Socket 754 chip this Spring and found that it was not too speedy even compared with Intel Pentium 4 processors with 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus and the Hyper-Threading technology, not talking about faster Prescott chips. AMD surely understands the problems of such architecture and certainly figured out that such chips even clocked at about 2.0GHz would not be good competitors for Intel Prescott monsters. Due to this reason AMD is very likely to launch a special version of its 64-bit processors for high-end desktop computers with boosted performance.
After a quarter of AMD Opteron existence we can state that Sunnyvale, California-based CPU maker does have problems with core-clock of its x86-64 processors. It is very unlikely that the company will solve the issues shortly and it is clear that in order to see the AMD64 chips shining it is critically important to make them using thinner and more mature SOI technology. But since the 90nm fabrication process is not so close for AMD, the company needs to use different approaches in order to improve performance of its Athlon 64 chips.
One of the ways to boost the speed of AMD64 processor is to increase its memory bandwidth by turning on the second memory controller. Based on the fact that many sources now speak about Socket 939 and Socket 940 Athlon 64 processors I can conclude that AMD, at least, plans to launch such chips. The processor will perform and cost like Opteron in 1P configurations and probably will not sell with great margins, but it will be fast enough to compete with higher-end Intel chips this year. AMD dramatically needs to prove the world that its Athlon 64 are the fastest processors on the planet, just like the company did with its Athlon and Athlon XP chips in 1999 and 2001 respectively, hence, the cost and margins will be considered in the second turn. For end users Athlon 64-based systems with dual-channel DDR SDRAM will not be inexpensive because the chips are very likely to be just the remarked Opteron processors and will require registered DIMM modules.
In order to determine between Athlon 64 with single- and dual-channel memory processors, AMD is likely to use the “FX” suffix in the brand name, e.g. Athlon 64 FX. But that is not all. Some web-sites report that different Athlon 64 processors will use different performance/model numbers as well. The “ordinary” Athlon 64 chips will be branded with performance rating, e.g. 3200+, 3700+, etc; whereas the Athlon 64 FX will be branded using model numbers, just like Opteron CPUs, e.g. Athlon 64 FX-51, Athlon 64 FX -55 and so on. Such branding strategy is not the best, especially considering that in future AMD will implement dual-channel memory controller into all Athlon 64 CPUs, but at this point adding “FX” (or any other) suffix seems to be a solution.
The information is not official and no AMD representatives were here to comment on it, but at this very point the details seem logical enough.