Pentium Extreme Edition 955 vs. Athlon 64 FX-60

INTEL HAS JUST RECENTLY unleashed its latest desktop processor, the Pentium Extreme Edition 955, armed with a fistful of new technologies that sound mighty intimidating on a spec sheet. Intel manufactures this CPU using its brand-new 65nm process tech, and the Extreme Edition 955 sports dual processor cores with a higher clock speed, a larger cache, and faster bus than its predecessor. Not only that, but this new processor gets support from the also-new 975X chipset, Intel’s first stab at core logic with a proper dual eight-lane PCI Express configuration for use with dual-graphics solutions like ATI’s CrossFire. All told, the Extreme Edition 955 sounds like a formidable presence on paper, and it backs up that rep in person with better performance than any other desktop chip Intel has produced to date.

The Extreme Edition’s stellar resume isn’t likely to intimidate AMD, because Athlon 64 processors have been outperforming Intel’s CPUs for a good while now. Just to be sure, though, AMD has cooked up its own new flagship CPU for release today, the Athlon 64 FX-60. The FX-60 isn’t as flashy as Intel’s new number, but it does represent a major change for AMD’s high-end gaming-oriented processors, because it is the first dual-core member of the FX product line.

Now, these two new thousand-dollar processors face one another in our broad suite of performance tests, ranging from highly multithreaded 64-bit rendering applications to the latest games. Thanks to new multithreaded graphics drivers, these new dual-core CPUs may even challenge their single-core counterparts for supremacy in 3D gaming. Let’s see whether the boffo specs on Intel’s new 65nm Extreme Edition processor translate into a credible challenge for the dual-core FX-60.

Presler gets extreme
The Pentium Extreme Edition 955 is the top member of a whole new family of Pentium desktop processors from Intel. At the heart of this lineup is a single chip, code-named Cedar Mill, which is a rendition of the Pentium 4’s familiar Netburst microarchitecture manufactured via Intel’s 65nm fab process. Cedar Mill processors pack 188 million transistors into a die that’s only 81 square millimeters—well below the 122mm2 of Pentium 4 “Prescott” processors thanks to the transition from 90nm to 65nm process tech. This reduction in die area comes in spite of the fact that Cedar Mill processors carry quite a few more transistors. Intel estimates Cedar Mill’s transistor count at 188 million, versus 169 million for the version of Prescott that has 2MB of L2 cache. Cedar Mill also has 2MB of L2 cache, so the additional transistors likely come from other sources, including the addition of support for Intel’s new virtualization technology, dubbed VT.

Cedar Mill chips support not only VT but the entire legacy of Intel alphabet-soup extensions, including MMX, SSE/2/3, EM64T, and HT or Hyper-Threading. This latest addition to the soup consists of a handful of new instructions intended to facilitate the creation and operation of multiple virtual machines on a single CPU, a la virtual machine software packages like VMWare. Hardware assisted virtualization can segment virtual machines at a lower level than software packages alone, allowing for better partitioning between VMs for the sake of security, stronger isolation of faults or crashes to a single VM, and higher performance. The use of virtual machines is largely confined to servers right now, but virtualization will likely spread to the desktop in the coming years for the sake of security or digital rights management schemes—or because I’d really like to run the MacOS alongside Windows, assuming Mr. Jobs will allow such crazy things to happen.

Intel will mix and match Cedar Mill silicon and features to the various products in its desktop CPU lineup, disabling Hyper-Threading or binning out clock speeds according to its needs. Cedar Mill chips in their most basic form will make up the Pentium 4 6×1 series of processors at clock speeds ranging from 3GHz for model 631 to 3.6GHz for the Pentium 4 661. These products will talk to the world via an 800MHz front-side bus and will not support VT technology.

The more radical implementations of Cedar Mill fall under the umbrella of the “Presler” code name. Presler is not a separate chip, but two Cedar Mill chips situated together on a single package to make a “dual-core” CPU. Like prior dual-core CPUs from Intel, Presler’s two halves communicate with one another over a shared front-side bus, with no provisions for point-to-point intra-chip data transfers. Thus, there’s really no performance penalty for moving to a two-chip design. There are manufacturing advantages, though. Any two Cedar Mill chips can be joined together to make a Presler processor, and the total surface area of the wafer that must be defect-free to produce a Cedar Mill chip is only the aforementioned 81 mm2. Yes, it has to happen twice, but not on adjacent portions of the wafer or even on the same wafer. Contrast that with with the die sizes of the Pentium D or the Athlon 64 X2—both roughly 200 square millimeters—and you begin to see the advantages of Presler’s dual-chip-per-package approach. These puppies should be much cheaper to produce as Intel’s yields ramp up on its 65nm process.

Presler CPUs will form the meat of Intel’s desktop processor lineup, the Pentium D 900 series. The 900s initially range from the 920 at 2.8GHz to the 950 at 3.4GHz, all riding an 800MHz bus with 2MB of L2 per core. These products have VT support enabled but not Hyper-Threading. (Trust me, all of this somehow makes sense to the marketing majors inside Intel, if not the engineers.)

Our subject today, the Pentium Extreme Edition 955, is the fully-realized, self-actuated version of Presler with support cranked up for all of the goodies, including Hyper-Threading, VT, and 2MB of cache per core. The Extreme Edition also separates itself from the riff-raff with its ability to run on a 1066MHz front-side bus—a welcome development given the prevalence of dual-channel memory subsystems on Intel core-logic chipsets and the rise of DDR2 memory modules capable of running at 800MHz and beyond. Progress often comes at a penalty, and in this case, the price we pay is motherboard compatibility. Although the Extreme Edition 955 comes in the same LGA775 package as other recent desktop Pentiums, it requires additional voltage that can only be supplied by newer motherboards, such as the boards arriving alongside the Extreme Edition 955 that are based on the Intel 975X chipset.

 

The 975X chipset: Intel does dual graphics
The 975X pairs up a revamped north bridge with the familiar ICH7R south bridge I/O chip.


A block diagram of the 975X chipset. Source: Intel.

The only notable change between the older 955X chipset and the new 975X is that the 975X can slice up its 16 lanes of PCI Express dedicated to graphics into a pair of eight-lane connections for use in dual-graphics schemes. ATI’s CrossFire and S3’s DuoChrome will support the 975X, but NVIDIA apparently intends to maintain a driver-based lockout that will limit SLI to its own nForce4 chipsets. This development comes as something of a surprise, since rumors were circulating widely about NVIDIA supporting SLI on the 975X, and even some of the initial communications we received from Intel about the 975X mentioned SLI support. NVIDIA has long claimed that it would validate third-party hardware for SLI if the hardware were submitted to its SLI validation program. We recently learned at CES that Intel and its motherboard partners have submitted 975X boards for validation, and we also learned that NVIDIA is not likely to validate those boards for SLI. We also got the distinct impression that NVIDIA’s refusal to validate the 975X is almost certainly not motivated by technical problems, especially given the fact that the initial SLI demo systems were based on Intel core logic chips.

Intel says it’s still working on getting SLI validation for the 975X, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it. Perhaps if Intel agrees to certify nForce chipsets for its Centrino or Viiv platforms, NVIDIA will open up SLI support on the 975X. Turnabout is fair play, right?

Thermal problems?
Regular readers may recall that our review of the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 was delayed by thermal problems, as we’ve explained. Intel claims the problems we experienced—with two separate kits consisting of a motherboard, CPU, and cooler—are still something of a mystery. The problem was resolved by switching to a third-party cooler with a different retention mechanism, and our current best guess is that the trouble we encountered was related to the CPU cooler retention mechanism. This possibility was first suggested to us by Chris Angelini, another reviewer who had encountered similar problems. Chris speculated that the CPU cooler might be tensioned too tightly, causing the Intel D975XBX motherboard to warp and thus preventing the cooler from making clean, even contact across the surface of the CPU. This theory would seem to explain why we saw relatively better (though not entirely satisfactory) results when using the cooler’s included TIM pad on initial installation of the CPU rather than thermal grease.

Whatever the case, we don’t believe the CPU itself was at fault. The Extreme Edition 955 pulls less power and thus dissipates less heat under load than its predecessor, the Extreme Edition 840, as our test results will show. Intel may have larger problems with its LGA775 thermal infrastructure, though. We’ll have to keep an eye on this issue.

AMD’s FX flagship doubles up
So Intel has chopped its dual-core product up into two chips, doubled the L2 cache, raised the clock and bus speeds, and performed a die shrink to 65nm. AMD’s response is much simpler than all of that. The Athlon 64 FX-60 is pretty much just an Athlon 64 X2 4800+ blessed with a 2.6GHz clock speed and a fancy name.



The Pentium Extreme Edition 955 (left) and Athlon 64 FX-60 (right)

This simple move represents a major transition, though, because AMD’s high-end gaming CPU is at last making the leap to dual cores. The FX-60 gives up 200MHz to the Athlon 64 FX-57, but its second core should benefit from the introduction of multithreaded graphics drivers by both ATI and NVIDIA. In fact, AMD is saying that the Athlon 64 FX-57 may be the last of its high-speed, single-core processors. The FX-57 will exist alongside the FX-60 for the time being, allowing consumers to choose between a single 2.8GHz core or the equivalent of two Athlon 64 FX-55 cores in the FX-60.

Like all dual-core AMDs to date, the FX-60 is a 90nm chip. AMD has yet to make the transition to 65nm, but continues to claim that its transition to 65nm is “on track.” For now, AMD will have to rely on its current mix of CPU microarchitecture and 90nm SOI manufacturing capabilities to deliver an attractive performance per watt proposition. We’ll have to see whether the FX-60 can match the 65nm Presler there.

The match-up
That brings us to the main event, the match-up between the FX-60 and the Extreme Edition 955, which is rife with subplots. The biggest question, of course, is which of these high-dollar CPUs can claim to be fastest, and the natural follow-up will deal with power consumption as it relates to performance. Beyond that, we’ll want to keep track of several other notable questions.

We expect some sort of a boost from multithreaded graphics drivers (we’ll be testing with NVIDIA’s), but how much and what sort of performance gains? NVIDIA has said that it will offload some vertex processing to the CPU in these drivers, and so we should expect to see gains at lower resolutions, where vertex throughput is more likely a bottleneck than graphics pixel-pushing power. Fortunately, we already tend to test CPU gaming performance at lower resolutions precisely because we don’t want graphics fill rates to become a bottleneck. Then again, the performance gains from multithreading in the graphics driver aren’t likely to be huge. Can dual-core CPUs really take advantage of multithreaded drivers well enough to outpace faster single-core processors in otherwise single-threaded games? For that matter, can the single-core Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz capitalize on its Hyper-Threading abilities to become more competitive with the Athlon 64 FX-57 in 3D games?

In a similar vein, we’ve tested largely with 64-bit applications on Windows XP Pro x64 Edition, and many of those applications are multithreaded. We’ll be interested to see how newer 64-bit code and multithreading affect performance on different CPU microarchitectures.

 

Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and the results were averaged.

Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Pentium Extreme Edition 840 3.2GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz
Pentium Extreme Edition 955 3.4GHz
Athlon 64 FX-60 2.6GHz
Athlon 64 FX-57 2.8GHz
Athlon 64 X2 4800+ 2.4GHz
System bus 800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped) 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped) 1GHz HyperTransport
Motherboard Intel D975XBX Intel D975XBX Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe
BIOS revision BX97510J.86A.0354.2005.1208.1112 BX97510J.86A.0354.2005.1208.1112 0806
North bridge 975X MCH 975X MCH nForce4 SLI X16
South bridge ICH7R ICH7R nForce4 SLI
Chipset drivers INF Update 7.2.2.1006
Intel Matrix Storage Manager 5.5.0.1035
INF Update 7.2.2.1006
Intel Matrix Storage Manager 5.5.0.1035
SMBus driver 4.5
IDE/SATA driver 5.52
Memory size 2GB (2 DIMMs) 2GB (2 DIMMs) 2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Crucial Ballistix PC2-8000
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
Crucial Ballistix PC2-8000
DDR2 SDRAM
at 800MHz
Crucial PC3200
DDR SDRAM
at 400MHz
CAS latency (CL) 4 4 2.5
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 4 4 3
RAS precharge (tRP) 4 4 3
Cycle time (tRAS) 15 15 8
Hard drive Maxtor DiamondMax 10 250GB SATA 150
Audio Integrated ICH7R/STAC9221D5
with SigmaTel 5.10.4825.0 drivers
Integrated ICH7R/STAC9221D5
with SigmaTel 5.10.4825.0 drivers
Integrated nForce4/ALC850
with Realtek 5.10.0.5970 drivers
Graphics GeForce 7800 GTX 512 PCI-E with ForceWare 81.98 drivers
OS Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 (WorldBench only)

All tests on the Pentium systems were run with Hyper-Threading enabled, except where otherwise noted.

Thanks to Crucial for providing us with memory for our testing. Their products and support are both far and away superior to generic, no-name memory.

Also, all of our test systems were powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units. The PowerStream was one of our Editor’s Choice winners in our latest PSU round-up.

The test systems’ Windows desktops were set at 1152×864 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

 

Memory performance
These synthetic tests don’t always mirror real-world performance, but they can tell us some interesting things about the CPUs and their memory subsystems, so we’ll start here.

The Extreme Edition 955’s combination of 800MHz DDR2 memory and a 1066MHz front-side bus gives it an edge in raw memory bandwidth. The FX-60’s RAM runs at half that clock speed, but it’s still fast enough to stay in the same neighborhood.

Our simple Linpack test isn’t optimized anywhere near well enough as some versions that serve as excellent scientific computing benchmarks. It can, however, show us the basic shape and bandwidth of the L1 and L2 caches in these CPU cores. The FX-60 delivers performance right between the 2.4GHz Athlon 64 X2 4800+ and the 2.8GHz FX-57. However, the Presler gives us something of a surprise; at 3.46GHz, its L2 cache proves faster than that of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz. We’ve seen this sort of thing before, like when the Athlon 64 3500 moved from 130nm to 90nm and the cache got faster. The likely explanation is that Intel made the cache faster, clock for clock, on Cedar Mill than on its 90nm chips.

The Athlon 64 processors have had a leg up in memory access latency ever since AMD brought a memory controller onboard the CPU. That advantage remains here, despite the Extreme Edition 955’s 1066MHz bus and fast DDR2 memory.

 

Gaming performance

F.E.A.R.
We tested F.E.A.R. by manually playing through a specific point in the game five times for each CPU while recording frame rates using the FRAPS utility. Each gameplay sequence lasted 60 seconds. This method has the advantage of simulating real gameplay quite closely, but it comes at the expense of precise repeatability. We believe that five sample sessions is sufficient to get reasonably consistent and trustworthy results. In addition to average frame rates, we’ve included the low frames rates, because those tend to reflect the user experience in performance-critical situations. In order to diminish the effect of outliers, we’ve reported the median of the five low frame rates we encountered.

Above the following benchmark graph, and throughout most of the tests in the review, we’ve included a Task Manager plot showing CPU utilization. These plots were captured on the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 system, and they should offer some indication of how much impact multithreading has on the operation of each application. Single-threaded apps may sometimes show up as spread across multiple processors in Task Manager, but the total amount of space below all four lines shouldn’t equal more than the total area of one square if the test is truly single-threaded. Anything significantly more than that is probably an indication of some multithreaded component in the execution of the test. (FRAPS was not running when we captured the Task Manager plots.)

We played F.E.A.R. with both CPU and graphics performance options set to the game’s built-in “High” settings.

The single-core Athlon 64 FX-57 just edges out the dual-core FX-60 in this single-threaded game. Looks to me like the graphics drivers are indeed making use of multithreading here, based on the Task Manager output. In fact, the Extreme Edition 955 edges out the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz, despite a substantial clock speed deficit. Median low frame rates track largely with the average frame rates, but note how the Extreme Edition 955 keeps pace with the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ on this front. All things considered, that’s impressive for a desktop Pentium.

Battlefield 2
We used FRAPS to capture BF2 frame rates just as we did with F.E.A.R. Graphics quality options were set to BF2’s canned “High” quality profile. This game has a built-in cap at 100 frames per second, and we intentionally left that cap enabled so we could offer a faithful look at real-world performance.

The dual-core processors pull ahead in BF2, probably thanks to NVIDIA’s multithreaded video drivers. All of these CPUs can play BF2 quite well, as the average and low frame rate numbers attest. Our seat-of-the-pants experience was good across the board. The most impressive number here, though, has got to be the FX-60’s low frame rate of 81 FPS. That’s well ahead anything else in the pack, which suggests the FX-60 has lots of headroom left in it for future games with more complex physics, AI, and the like.

Unreal Tournament 2004
We used a more traditional recorded timedemo for testing UT2004, but we tried out two versions of the game, the original 32-bit flavor and the just-released 64-bit version. UT has long been one of the more CPU-bound games around. Can multithreaded drivers and a 64-bit executable help matters?

Indeed, both things seem to help. The dual-core CPUs outperform the higher-frequency single cores, and the relatively slower Intel processors show some gains from the move to 64 bits. The FX-60 stakes a claim on the FX line’s traditional territory as the fastest gaming processor, though, while the Extreme Edition 955 can only outdo its Pentium siblings.

Half-Life 2
We also decided to try out the 64-bit version of Half-Life 2. This one is also a timedemo.

Again, the AMD processors take the top three spots, and again, the dual-core CPUs make a statement about their ability to serve as gaming processors.

 

3DMark05

These results would seem jarring had we not seen similar things in several of the games on the previous page. Dual-core processors are now faster for 3DMark05—and not just for the multithreaded CPU test, but for the single-threaded main tests. The two new CPUs prove faster than their predecessors, but all of the Athlon 64s are faster than their Intel counterparts.

The Task Manager plots tell the story of multithreading in the graphics drivers. The drivers really make use of multiple CPUs in the “Firefly Forest” and “Canyon Flight” scenes, it appears.

3DMark’s CPU tests use the processor to handle vertex calculations, and they are inherently multithreaded. In CPU test 1, the Extreme Edition 955’s four logical CPUs are all put to good use, and it takes the overall 3DMark CPU test as a result.

 

WorldBench overall performance
WorldBench uses scripting to step through a series of tasks in common Windows applications and then produces an overall score for comparison. More impressively, WorldBench spits out individual results for its component application tests, allowing us to compare performance in each. We’ll look at the overall score, and then we’ll show individual application results alongside the results from some of our own application tests. Because WorldBench tests are entirely scripted, we weren’t able to capture Task Manager plots for them.

AMD’s lead from our gaming test carries over into WorldBench, surprisingly enough. We’ve seen closer results between AMD and Intel processors in WorldBench in the past, but scores are much higher now overall, and the field has separated in AMD’s favor.

Audio editing and encoding

LAME MP3 encoding
LAME MT is, as you might have guessed, a multithreaded version of the LAME MP3 encoder. LAME MT was created as a demonstration of the benefits of multithreading specifically on a Hyper-Threaded CPU like the Pentium 4. You can even download a paper (in Word format) describing the programming effort.

Rather than run multiple parallel threads, LAME MT runs the MP3 encoder’s psycho-acoustic analysis function on a separate thread from the rest of the encoder using simple linear pipelining. That is, the psycho-acoustic analysis happens one frame ahead of everything else, and its results are buffered for later use by the second thread. The author notes, “In general, this approach is highly recommended, for it is exponentially harder to debug a parallel application than a linear one.”

We have results for two different 64-bit versions of LAME MT from different compilers, one from Microsoft and one from Intel, doing two different types of encoding, variable bit rate and constant bit rate. We are encoding a massive 10-minute, 6-second 101MB WAV file here, as we have done in our previous CPU reviews.

It’s close, especially with the Intel compiler, but the FX-60 proves fastest at audio encoding.

MusicMatch Jukebox

This one doesn’t look to be multithreaded; the fast single-core CPUs fare best.

 

Video editing and encoding

Windows Media Encoder x64 Edition Advanced Profile
We asked Windows Media Encoder to convert a gorgeous 1080-line WMV HD video clip into a 320×240 streaming format using the Windows Media Video 8 Advanced Profile codec.

Windows Media Encoder

Adobe Premiere

VideoWave Movie Creator

The tests change, but the FX-60 stays on top. The Extreme Edition 955 is clearly the fastest Intel processor of the bunch, but that’s not enough.

 

Image processing

Adobe Photoshop

ACDSee PowerPack

The FX-57 hangs on by a toenail in these two image processing tests, but the FX-60 is close enough that it doesn’t matter.

picCOLOR
picCOLOR was created by Dr. Reinert H. G. Müller of the FIBUS Institute. This isn’t Photoshop; picCOLOR’s image analysis capabilities can be used for scientific applications like particle flow analysis. Dr. Müller has supplied us with new revisions of his program for some time now, all the while optimizing picCOLOR for new advances in CPU technology, including MMX, SSE2, and Hyper-Threading. Naturally, he’s ported picCOLOR to 64 bits, so we can test performance with the x86-64 ISA. Eight of the 12 functions in the test are multithreaded.

Scores in picCOLOR, by the way, are indexed against a single-processor Pentium III 1GHz system, so that a score of 4.14 works out to 4.14 times the performance of the reference machine.

Chalk up another win for the FX-60 and AMD. The dual-core processors outrun the single-core models across the board here, too.

 

Multitasking and office applications

MS Office

WorldBench’s Office test involves switching between the various components of the Office suite, which are all running at once. The whole field runs pretty close together overall here, but once more, the FX-60 finishes first.

Mozilla

Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder

The Mozilla test is sensitive to memory access latencies, as I understand it, and that helps explain why the Athlon 64s clean up here. Adding Windows Media Encoder alongside it for a multitasking test moderates things a bit, but the Athlon 64s are faster by a wide margin nonetheless.

 

Other applications

Sphinx speech recognition
Ricky Houghton first brought us the Sphinx benchmark through his association with speech recognition efforts at Carnegie Mellon University. Sphinx is a high-quality speech recognition routine. We use two different versions, built with two different compilers, in an attempt to ensure we’re getting the best possible performance.

At last, a place where the Pentiums can claim a win. The Extreme Edition 955 can’t quite push past its single-core sibling here, but it’s very close considering the difference in clock frequency.

WinZip

Nero

The tables turn back AMD’s way with WinZip and Nero.

 

3D modeling and rendering

Cinebench 2003
Cinebench measures performance in Maxon’s Cinema 4D modeling and rendering app. This is the new 64-bit version of Cinebench, primed and ready for these new 64-bit processors.

The FX-60 continues to astonish with its dominance.

Cinebench’s shading tests are single-threaded, and it shows in the order of results.

 

POV-Ray rendering
POV-Ray just recently made the move to 64-bit binaries, and thanks to the nifty SMPOV distributed rendering utility, we’ve been able to make it multithreaded, as well. SMPOV spins off any number of instances of the POV-Ray renderer, and it will divvy up the scene in several different ways. For this scene, the best choice was to divide the screen horizontally between the different threads, which provides a fairly even workload.

We considered using the new beta of POV-Ray with native support for SMP, but it proved to be very, very slow. We’ll have to try it again once development has progressed further.

We’ve been rendering this same scene at the same resolution since the 800MHz days, and render times are now a tenth of what they used to be. With multiple threads, the Pentiums get a nice boost thanks to Hyper-Threading. Overall, though, AMD once more renders the scene fastest.

3dsmax 7 rendering
We tested 3ds max performance by rendering 20 frames of a sample scene at 320×240 resolution. This particular scene makes use of a motion-blur effect that requires extensive multi-pass rendering. We tried two different renderers: 3ds max’s default scanline renderer and its built-in version of the mental ray renderer.

AMD, uh, wins again. Sorry, folks, but we don’t rig ’em like NASCAR.

 

SiSoft Sandra
Next up is SiSoft’s Sandra system diagnosis program, which includes a number of different benchmarks. The one of interest to us is the “multimedia” benchmark, intended to show off the benefits of “multimedia” extensions like MMX and SSE/2. According to SiSoft’s FAQ, the benchmark actually does a fractal computation:

This benchmark generates a picture (640×480) of the well-known Mandelbrot fractal, using 255 iterations for each data pixel, in 32 colours. It is a real-life benchmark rather than a synthetic benchmark, designed to show the improvements MMX/Enhanced, 3DNow!/Enhanced, SSE(2) bring to such an algorithm.

The benchmark is multi-threaded for up to 64 CPUs maximum on SMP systems. This works by interlacing, i.e. each thread computes the next column not being worked on by other threads. Sandra creates as many threads as there are CPUs in the system and assignes [sic] each thread to a different CPU.

We’re using the 64-bit port of Sandra. The “Integer x16” version of this test uses integer numbers to simulate floating-point math. The floating-point version of the benchmark takes advantage of SSE2 to process up to eight Mandelbrot iterations at once.

High degrees of optimization can produce very good results on the Pentium Netburst microarchitecture, especially if the math being done lends itself to such things. Unfortunately, this example isn’t typical of the vast bulk of the real-world tests we’ve run.

 

Power consumption
We measured the power consumption of our entire test systems, except for the monitor, at the wall outlet using a Watts Up PRO watt meter. The test rigs were all equipped with OCZ PowerStream 520W power supply units. The idle results were measured at the Windows desktop, and we used SMPOV and the 64-bit version of the POV-Ray renderer to load up the CPUs. In all cases, we asked SMPOV to use the same number of threads as there were CPU front ends in Task Manager—so four for the Pentium XE 840, two for the Athlon 64 X2, and so on.

The graphs below have results for “power management” and “no power management.” That deserves some explanation. By “power management,” we mean SpeedStep or Cool’n’Quiet. In the case of the Pentium XE 840 CPU, the C1E halt state is always active, even in the “no power management” tests. The Extreme Edition 955 and the P4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz don’t support the C1E halt state or SpeedStep.

The FX-60 and Extreme Edition 955 consume exactly the same amount of power at idle—until AMD’s Cool’n’Quiet kicks in and the FX-60’s power use drops by 45 watts. It’s unfortunate than Intel chose not to include power management in the Extreme Edition 955.

The move to 65nm serves the Extreme Edition 955 well. Despite having more L2 cache, more transistors, and a higher clock frequency, it uses less power under load than the Extreme Edition 840. Sadly for Intel, the process shrink isn’t sufficient to close the power consumption gap with AMD’s amazing dual-core Athlons, which barely require more power than their single-core counterparts.

 

Overclocking
I’ve gotta hand it to the Extreme Edition 955 for one thing: it overclocks like a champ. Our sample would boot into Windows at 4.5GHz, although it wasn’t quite stable there—it threw calculation errors in Prime95. The thing was rock-solid at 4.266GHz, though, with only a minor voltage increase. Now, mind you, I was using one of these things to cool it, but it still hit 4.26GHz on air cooling.

Intel, by the way, is now doing what AMD has long done with the FX series and making the upper multiplier on the Extreme Edition unlocked. I suppose if you pay $999 for a processor, they figure you should be able to have some fun with it.

Anyhow, the FX-60 wasn’t as strong an overclocker, relatively speaking. It wouldn’t boot into Windows at 3.0GHz, even with lots of extra voltage. At 2.9GHz, core 0 threw errors in Prime95, although core 1 seemed fine. At 2.8GHz, both cores were stable in Prime95 at 1.4V.

Fortunately for the FX-60, it started out pretty fast anyhow. One can see how Intel might have remained more competitive had they been able to raise clock speeds on the Netburst architecture as originally planned. At 4.26GHz, it’s pretty darned fast.

More clock speed means more power consumption, though, and the 4.26GHz monster system sucks up 339W under load.

 
Conclusions
The Pentium Extreme Edition marks real progress for Intel on multiple fronts. It is the fastest all-around desktop CPU that Intel has ever produced, and thanks to its faster bus, larger cache, and higher clock speeds, the Extreme Edition 955 consistently outruns the older Extreme Edition 840. These features, combined with NVIDIA’s multithreaded graphics drivers, even make the Extreme Edition 955 a reasonably solid choice for 3D gaming—faster than the P4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz, believe it or not. At the same time, the Extreme Edition 955 consumes less power at peak than the Extreme Edition 840, proving that Intel’s 65nm fabrication process can deliver the tangible benefits that we’ve come to expect from a die shrink. That’s comforting news after our faith was shaken by the Pentium 4’s power and heat problems at 90nm. Not only that, but there’s apparently quite a bit of clock frequency headroom left in this 3.46GHz processor. Ours ran stable for hours at 4.26GHz with nary a hiccup.

I’ve never recommended buying a $999 processor and I’m not going to start now, but most of these things are good news for the rest of Intel’s desktop processor lineup, as well. We will have to test the new Pentium D 900 series soon to see exactly how it handles. Products in the Pentium D 900 line are available in the wild right now, and the Extreme Edition 955 should be available in the next week or so, according to Intel.

Our test results make it clear, however, that Intel probably won’t be able to catch up with AMD using processors based on the Netburst microarchitecture; it will have to wait for its new microarchitecture for that. Despite being produced at 90nm and having a much lower clock speed, the Athlon 64 FX-60 nearly ran the tables in our array of benchmarks, and it did so while consuming less power—both at idle and under load—than the Pentium Extreme Edition 955. The FX-60’s performance dominance wasn’t always deep, but it was very wide, with the top spot in only a few tests going to an Intel processor.

I had kind of expected our use, this time out, of newly compiled 64-bit binaries, multithreaded applications that can take advantage of Hyper-Threading, exceptionally fast Crucial 800MHz DDR2 memory, and multithreaded graphics drivers to give the Netburst architecture something of a boost in relative performance. Turns out that wasn’t the case.

AMD was certainly right to choose this time to transition the FX line to dual-core processors. The FX-60 looked every bit a worthy successor to the FX-57 in our gaming tests, and it creamed the FX-57 in pretty much anything multithreaded. It only makes sense for AMD’s image product to be a dual-core design, as Intel’s has been for a while now. Fortunately, the FX-60 requires virtually no compromises of gamers, despite its slightly lower clock speed than the FX-57.

One wouldn’t expect to have to make any compromises if one were paying $1031 for a microprocessor, which is what AMD intends to charge for the Athlon 64 FX-60. Personally, I’d be content with an overclocked Athlon 64 X2 3800+, but if you want to have the fastest desktop CPU money can buy, the FX-60 is undoubtedly it. 

Comments closed
    • Some Llama
    • 14 years ago

    I remember when the Pentium Pro (server version of the original pentium) went for $1000 and seemed to be worth it, I remind myself of this everytime my mind starts to think of buying one of the FX series chips… although it sure is tempting…

    BTW is the FX 60 unlocked multiplier wise? I remember hearing that all of the FX series were unlocked?

    • thomasxstewart
    • 14 years ago

    Yesterday I read that Fx-60 is primarily engineered to operate in Windows. Scores for Windows Office & Windows Media where most impressive of all scores, as far as % improvement over Fx-57. While Fx-60 is only 10% faster than X2 4800+, it has 233 million tranistors. Obviously Intel is going to 333mhz/sec core clock, Already 266 mhz/sec clock core are coming out, theres leading edge somewhere with Intel, it just isn’t gaming, per se’. Someday AMD will try 65 nm, faster, core & memory, it seems AMD holds back as long as possible to put extra touch into design that gives AMD quite advantage in quality of workmanship.Narrowing processors potenial to max out with windows is another reason to game AMD.Hey AMD I think dual core needs more tranistors.Signed:PHYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART VON DRASHEK M.D.

      • Palek
      • 14 years ago

      Whoa. Put away the ethanol, doctor.

    • BoBzeBuilder
    • 14 years ago

    one should consider…
    the new intel CPU is running 800MHz faster, has more cache…
    and yet its power consuption compared to the FX60 is impressive.

    imagine the FX60s power consumption running at 3.4GH lol

      • Shintai
      • 14 years ago

      A 3.4Ghz FX-60 would be cheating abit since its long over the design limits. Close to 3Ghz they start using 50-100W more per 100Mhz. So its unfair to compare with 65nm P4s in those terms.

      • Vaughn
      • 14 years ago

      “imagine the FX60s power consumption running at 3.4GH lol”

      Imagine the performance at 3.4ghz. it already beats the new penitum at stock speed. it would destroy it at that clock speed.

    • tay
    • 14 years ago

    Whats with the shitty game benches? Quake4 uses an awesome multicore patch (provided you fix the nvidia driver via registry), and you dont include it?

    UT2004 is outdated in addition to not being particularly popular. FEAR is ok but its a bit of a dog. Splinter Cell, AoE3, along with Quake4 etc might have been better choices.

    • IntelMole
    • 14 years ago

    Excellent review as always. I liked the “compare and contrast” moment halfway through.

    I hoped to see the P4EE put up more of a fight. As it was, half the time it was playing with the FX-57, if anything.

    But I’d also like to know exactly what Presler and Cedar Mill actually bring to the party? Presler consumes not much less power than Prescot, performs not much better, but is a bit smaller.

    Er… great. Bring on the Core. Now. Please?
    -Mole

      • tfp
      • 14 years ago

      Well yeah all it is is a process shrink, nothing more. Its not going to do much more then lower the heat output and maybe overclock better.

      Intel has no reason to try and ramp clockspeed with these processors, they are being replaced soon.

        • IntelMole
        • 14 years ago

        The design was at least looked at though, as there are an additional 12 million transistors in this design compared with Prescot. Now that may or may not have been used on correcting a fault with the original implementation, it may have been used to improve effieciency somehow (something *is* different – cache results), or or it may have been used entirely for VT.

        Or a combination of all three. And if I was spending a thousand dollars on a brand spanking new processor, I think I’d want more than this sort of performance improvement.

          • Shintai
          • 14 years ago

          The big thing is, they are 30-40% cheaper to make than 90nm P4.

          And specially single core P4 dropped quite abit in power consumption.
          And some dualcores dropped 20W.

            • IntelMole
            • 14 years ago

            They’re still a grand though. And they aren’t all that much better than the previous gen tech. And they still consume way too much power.

            The die size of the 1MB X2 at 90nm is 199mm, versus 162 for the Presler core. So for the next six months you’re looking at a 30-some square mm advantage and a 300mm wafer size (I forget how much AMD has transistioned to that, if at all).

            Hardly conclusive stuff.
            -Mole

    • nookie
    • 14 years ago

    I dont get how a 6800 card scores 9000+ in 3dmark05….

    …must be a typo it probably was the GTX 512.

      • Damage
      • 14 years ago

      Indeed it was. It’s been fixed.

    • Disco
    • 14 years ago

    Great Article.

    What strikes me most from the article is not just the impressive number of times the AMD processor achieve the best scores, but that they can do it with such a megahertz handicap! Even when the XE is overclocked to 4.266666666666 GHz, the AMD chip is still faster.

    • AmishRakeFight
    • 14 years ago

    Great review Scott…thanks for the painful reminder how far behind the times I am with my own systems. *sighs*

      • A_Pickle
      • 14 years ago

      I feel your pain. 😀

        • supercromp
        • 14 years ago

        i just got an opteron 165 for 330 from newegg. running it at 2.82 ghz. dual core 1 mb cache 2.82ghz. 330$ i benched HL2 at the same settings with that timedemo and got 123 fps

          • jobodaho
          • 14 years ago

          What’s the point of your post, to rub it in that you have a new computer?

            • Chrispy_
            • 14 years ago

            I have a new high-end computer that cost next to nothing (well, $300…)

            If you can’t afford high end stuff, buy the low-end stuff and overclock the snot out of it.

            • supercromp
            • 14 years ago

            im sorry i didnt intend it to mean that. i as trying to point out a steal is all.

    • Damage
    • 14 years ago

    So I have some other things on my plate first, but the plan is to add a range of CPUs to these results and publish additional articles about the new range of Pentium D 900s, Opteron 100 series, lower end X2s, and hopefully Yonah (though at 32 bits). We had to stick to the high-end stuff this time around, but once the template has been established, more will come. It is not my intention to stick to only $999 processors, and this newly modified benchmark suite deserves to be used with more affordable CPUs, too. Just couldn’t do it all at once.

      • maxxcool
      • 14 years ago

      Can we get some overclocked compared silicone in thier to? ive been holding onto my celeron-d 2.4@4gigs for a bit now for encoding tasks, i’d like to see a nice broad comaparison of processors rated top be 3000+ or better to compare against.. 😉

      and as always nice clean digestable article!

        • Logan[TeamX]
        • 14 years ago

        Opteron 170 @ 2.7GHz, 7GB/sec of DDR490 bandwidth CAS 2-3-3-6 (180 RAM divider), 160GB Maxtor RAID-0 (2 80GB drives, 8MB cache each).

        Your render rig was just burninated. Time to upgrade.

      • flip-mode
      • 14 years ago

      Damage, that rocks! I know many will appreciate it. Thanks.

    • gavinjcd
    • 14 years ago

    Both Sisoft Sandra and 3Dmarks synthetic benchmarks gave Intel wins. And it only won in 1 real world test which was sphinx. Shows how useless they can be, especially 3Dmark. The Gaming benchmark, if you believe those numbers Intel should win in at least half of the gaming benchmarks. It got creamed instead.

    I think it’s about time 3Dmark got left out to dry.

    Gav

      • PerfectCr
      • 14 years ago

      NO WAY! My system is faster! Look at my 3D Mark Score!!!!1111one

    • Logan[TeamX]
    • 14 years ago

    Excellent review.

    Looks like I’ll be doing my video card soon, and then the whole shooting match can go to my wife in 2007.

    Bring on AM2!

    • FireGryphon
    • 14 years ago

    Who’s bright idea was it to implement netburst architecture in the first place?

      • Illissius
      • 14 years ago

      The marketing dept., perhaps. But ask Intel.

      • Shintai
      • 14 years ago

      Netburst was a superior design until leakage started to show its ugly face. if you remember, netburst ramped like mad from AMD until…leakage it.

        • Krogoth
        • 14 years ago

        Overall, Netburst was a crappy architech and an epenis marketing trip from Intel that buys into “More Mhz= better” mentally of average joe. Netburst did two things consistly throughout most of it’s life.

        Netburst performed well at programs that use small bits of code and desired clockspeed above else. It happens that media encoding falls nicely into that catagory. Gaming performance was a mixed bag for some games like Netburst (Q3A), while more recent examples don’t like it as much. Netburst deliver soild performance with most professional-level apps until, K8 made it’s debute.

        The second thing that Netburst did consistly was that it was a smashing fiscal success for Intel. Intel’s aggrestive marketing campaign ( , -[

        • Flying Fox
        • 14 years ago

        “Superior” in what the objective was, clockspeed, then yes. It was superior till leakage start to become a big problem. Everything else, I really don’t see how it is superior. It has big branch prediction penalties, which require all those new fancy trace cache and other hacks to make it more palatable. And it also has big pipeline stsall penalties, which means they need more cache to compensate. More of these extra transistors lead to extra cost, although it was majorly offset by the fab power of Intel.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 14 years ago

        Weren’t the AXPs faster util AMD fell to far behind on production technology?

          • wierdo
          • 14 years ago

          I think it was because of the bus speed becoming a limiting factor at roughly past AXP 2500+. The 2500+ was still generally still better than the P4 2.4, but after that the performance gains per speed bump slowed down relative to the competition, and at AXP 3200+ that model was not able to stand up to 3.2Ghz P4, 2.8Ghz P4 was a closer fit to it at that point. The A64 came out and turned the tables upside down, but there was that gap for about a year where AMD’s products were best for price/performance but not in pure performance like they are now.

            • axeman
            • 14 years ago

            I don’t think it was really a bus speed issue. In fact in most apps on AXPs there seems to be very little advantage of the faster FSB and larger cache the Bartons had. I think the real killer for the AXPs is they really weren’t that speedy with SSE code. The Athlon 64s have really improved in content creation apps versus netburst chips, but the clock speed hasn’t increased all that much. Even at 2.4ghz the AXP didn’t do well at media encoding, even with a 400mhz FSB. All things being equal, a Athlon 64 3000+ at 2.0ghz stomps an athlon XP-M at 2.4ghz in video encoding, even though the 3000+ has a paltry single channel DDR-400 memory controller. The XP was never held back by FSB, just clock speed limits and less than steller SIMD performance by today’s standards.

            • wierdo
            • 14 years ago

            I guess that depends on application, but you’re right, SSE1 performance was not great so that didn’t help it as well when an application was optimized well for it – not many at the time, but the list was respectable a year later.

            • Krogoth
            • 14 years ago

            It’s actually aging EV6 bus that was killing the AXP. The intergrated memory controller and HT link on the K8 is what really allow to excede beyond K7’s limiations.

            • highlandr
            • 14 years ago

            Ahh, the EV6 bus. Too bad Alpha got absorbed, they had some awesome technology for their day. Consider that the EV6 bus was used on the very first Slot A Athlons, back in ’99 or so. It amazes my that my AXP-M still uses that tech, and could still be considered a mid-range mainstream machine…

            • Koly
            • 14 years ago

            The now mythical “Northwood Reign” lasted much shorter than people often think. The moment when Intel not only leapfrogged AMD with their top range model, but also introduced a whole range of CPUs which were clearly superior, and thus forced AMD back to the budget price segment (despite official pricing) came with the P4’C’ series in /[http://www.techreport.com/reviews/2003q2/pentium4-c/index.x?pg=1<]§ Shortly after, in June 2003, the P4 3.2 nailed it. Prior to that, they were able to leapfrog with P4 3.06 in the end of 2002, which introduced HT, but the gap was closed by the Barton launch in February 2003. In fact, 2002 was the year when Intel was able to advance from the Willamette disaster to leveling the fields up and finally leapfrogging AMD (but not dominating, performance wise). The Athlon 64 was launched in /[

            • flip-mode
            • 14 years ago

            Wow, that’s much shorter than I thought it was. Thanks.

            • Lazier_Said
            • 14 years ago

            As far as enthusiasts are concerned, the performance crown is not about retail speedgrades but about the attainable fully tweaked system. Consider overclocking and Northwood pulled away from AXP with i845G/E and 160-190mhz FSBs in May to June 2002. 16 months before A64.

            Consider also the weak overclocking of first gen S754 platforms due to fixed multiplier and no PCI/AGP lock and 3.6-3.8ghz NW remained competitive until the proper A64 chipsets were released in May to June 2004.

            Minimum 16 month crown, more realistically it was 2 years.

            • Beomagi
            • 14 years ago

            athlonxp’s were falling behind even without the overclock on northwoods.

            754 wasnt behind – 939 didn’t add much speed. It’s a more upgradable platform because you have faster chips and dual core, but when 939 frist came out, it wasn’t any different from 754 in performance, bang for buck was on the 754 side.

            as for as overclocking, i’ll give them that – sorta. I still get 2.64 out of my 2.4 pretty easily, and i’d have compared it to a 3.6/3.8, Though the new p4’s look great for oc’s.

            With OCZ getting into phase change, and showing off an fx57 running at 3.2GHz at -27C at anandtech and Dell using air cooling to get a p4EE to 4.26GHz, i’m really eager to see how well this can overclock some of intel’s more cost effective 900series chips.

            I’m guessing 5GHz for these chips when overclocked with excellent cooling. I really wanted to see single core versions of this process.

            • Koly
            • 14 years ago

            y[

            • Lazier_Said
            • 14 years ago

            If superior is not determined by enthusiast performance appeal, particularly in the context of a discussion on a performance enthusiast website, then what?

            Market sales perhaps? In which case Celeron conquered all.

            • Koly
            • 14 years ago

            I am going to be harsh, but I am baffled that someone with zero posts on the forums wants to preach about what enthusiasts had in mind several years ago. Anyway, I gave you several examples of what I think constituted the ‘enthusiast appeal’ at those days and it definitely wasn’t only the Northwoods. It is very arguable whether P4s had more of it compared to Athlon XPs even at their undoubtable heyday. I am under the impression that you equate ‘enthusiast’ with a particular type of high end overclocker, who aims for the performance crown. I think it is a way narrow definition. Most of the overclockers, if I am allowed to guess, are budget constrained and their goal is to buy cheaply and get most of their system for the money they have. I was one of them several years ago. As financial situation improves, many people loose interest in serious overclocking, but that does not mean they are less of a geek. They can tweak their systems for low noise, for example. Those that do not loose it, are the high end overclockers you probably have in mind – those who have the money, but do it for fun and invest in relatively high end chips and expensive cooling equipment.

            Of course, I think to define the superiority of a chip by ‘enthusiast performance appeal’ is extremely self-centered, especially when what you have on mind is only your particular type of enthusiast. I am not under the impression that this is the philosophy of this site (there are others for that), just read the conclusions of the reviews. Overclocking perfomance is examined, but is by no means a huge part of the evaluation. I agree with that kind of approach, that’s why I visit this site. /[

            • Lazier_Said
            • 14 years ago

            If I am going to be harsh, I think you’re the wordiest AMD fanboy I have ever met

            • Koly
            • 14 years ago

            I just love intelligent replies.

            • Hector
            • 14 years ago

            And lets not forget less than half the price!! That’s what kept many “enthusiasts” –

            From $50 T-breds 1700’s to $90 moblie XPs and 2500’s – all which could clock 2500Mhz plus, it was very hard for the informed to go out and buy $200 2.6 northwood C’s even if it was a tad better when both chips OC’ed.

            While intel has performance lead 4 or even 16 months over the past 6 years AMD has never lost it’s price/performance lead during that same time period.

    • PerfectCr
    • 14 years ago

    Intel better hope Conroe is competetive or else I dunno what’s gonna happen. I also heard on CNBC this morning that Dell will begin selling systems with AMD chips starting Q2 of this year. I hope they can meet the demand.

      • Shintai
      • 14 years ago

      I doubt Dell will sell AMD chips. As Michael Dell keeps saying. Dell alone would consume everything AMD makes and abit more.

      On the other hand that could also mean. Wants a AMD? Get a Dell!

      But since Dell made a big effort to make a quad SLI P4EE that will ship in Q2. I dont think so.

      Conroe have 4 IPC vs P-M/P4/AMD64 3. Its a 14 stage pipeline clocking at 2.66-3Ghz (more like 2.66 than 3Ghz at launch). 4MB cache, 1066 and 1333Mhz bus. (1066 seems to be celeron class)

      Now…take Yonah…3 IPC, 2MB cache, 667Mhz bus and also 14stage pipeline. But with alot of “power restains” in terms of power saving features vs free mode.

      What do you think Conroe will perform like, when Yonah basicly perform pair with the same AMD64. (I know Yonah is a tiny part slower in most cases.)

        • PerfectCr
        • 14 years ago

        What is your point exactly?

          • Shintai
          • 14 years ago

          An answer?

          y[

            • Krogoth
            • 14 years ago

            Wait until the silicon comes out of the fabs before we can specuate on it’s real world performance.

        • wierdo
        • 14 years ago

        IPC is not the same as the issue width of a processor, the wider the processor the better if we ignore other design factors, but there are serious deminishing returns to doing so, which is why we don’t have 20 issue x86 CPUs right now. Aside from code prediction issues limiting the effectiveness of wider CPU designs, the added complexity can affect the processor’s scaling headroom.

        Also you have to keep in mind that the pipelines could be general issue or specialized (only handles a subset of operations) so direct comparisons are difficult. Allot of work goes into balancing everything, so who knows how things will turn out. I expect something good, but it’s hard to say if that’s the case, and if so how good and good at what.

    • Ruiner
    • 14 years ago

    Kudos for the fraps testing in FEAR and BF2.

    Frame drops into the 20’s….at 10×7 in FEAR….ouch.

      • A_Pickle
      • 14 years ago

      q[

        • Krogoth
        • 14 years ago

        FEAR runs like butter on my system@ 1280×960, then again I don’t use AA. It seems AA does quite a number on FEAR.

          • A_Pickle
          • 14 years ago

          I’ll admit, my experience comes from demo play.

    • mczak
    • 14 years ago

    Looks like there is an error in the Lame/CBR/MS results, the X2 4800+ got exactly the same score as the 955XE which doesn’t make sense (it should be just a tad slower than the FX-60 obviously).

    • quarantined
    • 14 years ago

    It’s nice to know that nutburst marchitecture is on its way out. You really can’t polish a turd as these reviews have proven time and again.

    • LicketySplit
    • 14 years ago

    Pretty impressive article..Great job as usual. Long Live AMD:) Im gonna go look and see how Tom’s covers it..hehe

      • PLASTIC SURGEON
      • 14 years ago

      LOL. Don’t even waste your time. You can already read Tom’s Head Line.
      “INTEL IS THE NEW REIGNING CHAMP….” :p

      • Chrispy_
      • 14 years ago

      Sure. If you want to see how well the intel does in optimised programs, and comparing like for like where THG reckon the 4800+ is the marketplace equivalent, then go right ahead.

      Even with it’s strong Anti-AMD sway though, THG fails to paint the EE955 in better light than the 4800+

    • Hattig
    • 14 years ago

    Not a good time to buy a high-end gaming system.

    1) AMD: Socket AM2 with DDR2 coming out within 6 months
    2) Intel: Merom/Conroe coming out within 6 months

    Regardless, getting an Opteron 165 or 170 and overclocking it seems to be a far cheaper option, and generally as good, if not better, than buying an FX60 (even if you overclock it).

    So these releases of performance processors will cater to non-informed gamers and people with little sense. Sadly that’s a lot!

    Anyway, at least Intel’s processor isn’t a total embarrassment these days. Outperformed, yes. Power hungry, yes. But both of these will be dealt with by Conroe. AMD’s issue of memory bandwidth will be dealt with by AM2, presumably with the new F Stepping to reduce power further, enable a 2.8GHz FX dual core on 90nm, and possibly a 3GHz single core, if AMD care about the performance single-core market any longer…

      • WaltC
      • 14 years ago

      q[

        • Shintai
        • 14 years ago

        I dont think we in history have been at a time like this. Where the next 3-5months its just unbearable stupid to upgrade ever.

        For AMD users anything they buy now, mobo, memory and cpu they can throw out with any upgrade.

        For Intel its the end of the power wasting and lagging behind. Plus dropping of legacy PATA and AC97 in the new 90nm broadwater chipsets.

        Intel you could maybe defend, like I can still use my DDR2 in a conroe setup. But for AMD its basicly whole system. And everytime in the past you could always atleast pull one of the 3 items over in an upgrade.

        So both the upgrade path and the technology path have collided with smackdown set for Q2/06 for all. (Since conroe is moved alittle bit forward from july to june.)

          • BabelHuber
          • 14 years ago

          q[

            • Vrock
            • 14 years ago

            q[

            • packfan_dave
            • 14 years ago

            Yeah. The enthusiast community doesn’t seem to get that almost no one outside that group (i.e. 95% of PC users) ever upgrades their CPU or motherboard without replacing the whole system. I’ve got a 3.2 GHz Northwood @home; I’m probably not going to replace it until 2007, as I’m not a hardcore gamer, and it works fine for everything else (and really, 3.2 GHz Northwood/GF6600GT/1.5 GB of RAM isn’t half-bad as a gaming box) right now.

          • pwdrhnd23
          • 14 years ago

          Why do people forget that for every new change in processors, Intel has forced a mobo change?

    • soloza
    • 14 years ago

    I don’t see how it’s disappointing. I mean it’s only clocked 200 Mhz higher than a 4800+ Performance is about what I was expecting. Rather look at how well it does against the 200 Mhz faster FX57 just due to software optimizations.

    Nice review though ! Well done.

      • A_Pickle
      • 14 years ago

      Yeah, the 955 “competes” with a 4800+. That is, it doesn’t get slaughtered as badly as the rest of the Pentiums… but…. yeah. I was expecting FX-60 whompage.

    • R2P2
    • 14 years ago

    Isn’t there 1066MHz DDR2 yet? I thought it’s usually better to have the RAM at the same speed as the FSB.

      • A_Pickle
      • 14 years ago

      If you’re operating dual-channels of 800 MHz memory… I think there ought to be no problem filling the FSB.

      -Pikl

      • Shintai
      • 14 years ago

      Its always best to keep busses in SYNC. With that said. There are usually buffers to take out the missing clocks.

      However Dual 667 is basicly just what a 1333Mhz FSB need in full sync.

      667/800/1066 would also be better than say 1100 due to the syncing. (Remember quad pumped)

    • willyolio
    • 14 years ago

    i’d say the performance is… disappointing compared to the 4800+ and FX-57, but no surprise in beating out Intel. DDR1 is pretty much the only problem, possibly holding the processor back- i think the first FX chips that run on DDR2 will be the ones to wait for.

      • A_Pickle
      • 14 years ago

      Wow.

      That is the first time I’ve heard someone say that, generally I hear DDR2 held in as “high” regard as the Prescott Pentium 4. As an Intel fan, I’d have to say I’m interested in the performance of the new AMD AM2 chips. DDR2 bandwidth should be interesting, to say the least.

      -Pikl

        • Chrispy_
        • 14 years ago

        DDR2 is good, obviously better than DDR1, but what people don’t see very often is how good RAMBUS really was. It may have been stillborn by Intel’s adoption strategy, and the company lawyers may be the patent-holding rampant annoyance of the industry, but the technology was sound.

        I’m interested to see that AMD licenced RAMBUS in addition to DDR2. Whilst I expect it was more of a “cover our asses” move, I’d like to think that they’re also taking the best bits of the RAMBUS architecture and adding it to their plans for the AM2 memory controller.

        A man can dream…..

        • wierdo
        • 14 years ago

        DDR2’s not bad, it just needs to run at high enough speeds to overcome the latency penalty, after which the bandwidth advantage is a nice addition. Once price goes down some more – mainly the only obstacle imho – then it’ll be just a matter of getting 800mhz DDR2 and we’re finally able to really enjoy something better than DDR1 performance.

      • Krogoth
      • 14 years ago

      Dude, FX-60 is only 200Mhz faster then 4800+ and most benchmarks are faster by that percentage increase. FX-57 on the other hand is 200 Mhz faster but its single-core. A little multi-thread code gave FX-60 the edge in gaming performance.

      I think you have not wake and smell the coffee yet. Because the days of rapid expentional growth in single-core CPUs have been over for while. Multi-core CPUs are next area to see growth, but it requires multi-threaded code and mainstream programmers barely had time to start. In one or two more years, expect the 4800+ and FX-60 to completely destroy FX-57 in well coded multi-threaded apps.

      • swaaye
      • 14 years ago

      I always like to mention that my Dothan notebook with PC2-4200 scores about at the level of PC3200 thanks to CAS4, etc.

        • A_Pickle
        • 14 years ago

        What you might not know is that, while your DDR2-533 runs as fast as the DDR-400, your DDR2 runs at 1.8v versus the DDR2’s 2.5v.

        -Pikl

    • Shintai
    • 14 years ago

    Conroe seems to be pushed for Q2/06. And AMD AM2 sockets CPUs are around the corner aswell. Any new AMD64 DDR1 or P4 CPUs are just deadborn children, specially 1000$ CPUs.

    So for everyone, squeeze you butt together and wait the last few months. Nomatter if you wanna buy AMD or Intel.

    EDIT: Forgot to add. This is the LAST 939 speedbump. They continue to make 939 CPUs, just not any faster versions.

      • A_Pickle
      • 14 years ago

      ….More specifically, Conroe is being pushed to July 2006. I’m looking forward to Merom, truth be told. Desktop stuff is fast losing it’s appeal, I want workstation power on the go, and I want good battery life to boot.

      Intel’s Core Duo is flat amazing. The ability to put what is, essentially, two processors in a laptop while maintaining a long, not just good, LONG battery life, is nothing short of amazing to me. But then, the ability to make a dual-core variant of a select processor, and then have that variant require /[

        • Shintai
        • 14 years ago

        No, sooner than July. July is Q3

        But not much, Expect June 😉

          • A_Pickle
          • 14 years ago

          Really? Aw, heck yeah! I had mistaken your “Q2” for “2H.”

          -Pikl

      • Krogoth
      • 14 years ago

      It’s not a big deal for S939 90nm part, since they are going towards TPD limit of S939. I don’t think AMD wants to go into the same boat as Intel and their P4XE.

      I sure there are going to be S939 65nm parts, since you now can get E4 Venices in S754. Just look at Newegg if you doubt me. By the time 65nm parts reach the marketplace in mass. Value overclockers would be the only people interested in S939 65nm parts.

      DDR2 is not going to offer much if any real-world performance benefit to the single-core and dual-core A64s. DDR2 will have to till tri and quad-core A64s to see their bandwidth advantage over DDR1.

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