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AMD’s Opteron 165 and 180 processors

Scott Wasson
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AMD‘S OPTERON 100 SERIES processors have led a difficult existence. For most of their run, they’ve been sojourning in the wilderness of single-plug Socket 940 motherboards—a lonely and desolate place, to be sure. They’ve had to suffer in relative obscurity as their siblings and cousins, the Opteron 200 series and the Athlon 64, have gone on to resounding success. That’s gotta damage a chip’s psychological makeup.

With the move to dual-core CPUs, though, the Opteron 100 series looks poised for success. After all, if you can get essentially two Opteron processors into a single-socket motherboard, you’ve got low-end server and workstation nirvana. To facilitate such things, AMD has sought to free the Opteron 100 series from prior constraints by moving some pins around on the underside of the chips. As a result, the new dual-core Opteron 100 processors will drop into a plain ol’ Socket 939 motherboard and communicate happily with a pack of unbuffered DIMMs, just like an Athlon 64.

This change has most likely provoked a whole other bundle of pyschological issues—namely, an identity crisis. Take the Opteron 180, for example. With 1MB of L2 cache for each of its two CPU cores and a 2.4GHz clock frequency, the 180 looks for all the world like an Athlon 64 X2 4800+. The main difference between the two? The name, pretty much. Now, that doesn’t make the Opteron 180 a bad product—far from it, in fact—but it may never escape comparisons to its Athlon 64 doppelganger.

The Opteron 100 series seems to have developed a tendency to overcompensate as a result of this troubled legacy, and the Opteron 165 is the apparent result. This unassuming processor is among the cheapest of AMD’s dual-core processors, with a 1.8GHz clock rate and 1MB of L2 cache. Yet when plugged into an obliging enthusiast-class motherboard, the Opteron 165’s overclocking prowess has earned it a rep for being more dangerous than Dick Cheney with a 20-gauge full of birdshot. How do these two dual-core Opteron processors fit into the larger picture, and will they ever find inner peace? Let’s see what we can see.

The Opteron 100s up close
Those of you who are unfamiliar with AMD’s dual-core Opteron processors would do well to read our original review of these CPUs for a technology overview. All dual-core Opterons share the same basic silicon. Like their multi-socket siblings, Opteron 100 series chips are fabricated with AMD’s 90nm process and cram roughly 233 million transistors into 199 mm2 of die area. Unlike other Opterons, though, the dual-core 100 series chips take advantage of the Socket 939 motherboard infrastructure created for the Athlon 64.


The Opterons 165 and 180

In fact, the Opteron 100 line is the love child of AMD’s marketing and product segmentation efforts. Opterons are intended for servers and workstations, which do serious business all-day long in enterprise-class environments where they are creating synergies and leveraging vertical integration in a proactive manner, or some such. These are buttoned-down CPUs. Athlon 64s, on the other hand, play video games and handle mundane desktop chores for individual users. So maybe they’re pretty much exactly the same chip, but their intended markets are worlds—or at least cubicles—apart.

Some of the better enthusiast-class motherboards can no doubt serve the Opteron 100s relatively well in workstation roles, but for server use, the 100 series still needs its own infrastructure. That’s beginning to materialize in the form of mobos like Tyan’s Tomcat K8E.


The Tyan Tomcat K8E motherboard

This no-nonsense board features simple ATI Rage onboard graphics, dual GigE LAN ports, an nForce4 chipset, and low-profile cooling that should fit easily inside of a 1U server chassis. Boards like this one should be perfect for low-cost servers and the like.

Our primary interest in the Opterons 165 and 180 today, however, is in workstation use, and so we’ve elected to test them instead on Asus’ excellent A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard, head to head against their Athlon 64 cousins.

So, who’s the competition?
If you’re buying a single-socket dual-core PC processor, you have several options that would compete with these Opterons. As I’ve mentioned, the Opteron 165 is especially attractive because it’s one of AMD’s lowest priced dual-core CPUs. As I write, AMD has removed all Opteron 100-series pricing from its price list page in an obvious attempt to foil me, but through the power of our price search engine, I have determined that Opteron 165s are currently selling for about $350 at online vendors.

Intel lets its Pentium processors do battle in the single-socket workstation market, and the Pentium D 930’s $316 price tag falls closest in Intel’s lineup to the Opteron 165’s current street value. The 930 is a brand-new dual-core CPU based on Intel’s 65-nanometer Presler core, as in the Extreme Edition 955 that we reviewed last month. However, the 930 rides on an 800MHz front-side bus, runs at 3GHz, and doesn’t have the Hyper-Threading capability of the Extreme Edition. Thanks to its 2MB of L2 cache per core, the Pentium D 930 should outperform the chip it replaces, the Pentium D 830.

The Opteron 165’s other dual-core competition in this price range is AMD’s own Athlon 64 X2 3800+, a 2GHz processor with 512K of L2 cache per core. The X2 3800+ lists at $301 and is selling for about that price online. Obviously, the X2 3800+ offers higher clock speeds at the expense of half the L2 cache compared to the Opteron 165. That’s an interesting tradeoff.

The Opteron 165’s ace in the hole for PC enthusiasts looking to transgress against product segmentation barriers, however, is its vaunted potential for overclocking. AMD says that Opterons go through more extensive validation than Athlon 64 processors, no doubt because leveraging synergies is not something to be done lightly. Many overclocking types have taken this language to mean that clock frequencies are chosen more conservatively for Opteron 100 chips. I’m not too sure about that, but it does seem that low-end Opteron 100s have shown some uncommon clock speed headroom. That may have made the Opteron 165 a little too popular, however. Word has it that AMD is constraining supply of the Opteron 165 in some distribution channels and instead supplying most 165s directly to larger system builders.

As for the Opteron 180, it’s selling for between $700 and $800 at online shops. That puts its price tag a little north of the Athlon 64 X2 4800+, the same chip with a different name. The most direct true competitor to the Opteron 180 is probably Intel’s Pentium D 950, a 3.4GHz processor with a list price of $637.

Naturally, we’ve rounded up all of these competitors for comparison to the Opterons 165 and 180. Let’s take a look at their performance.

 

Our testing methods
Please note that the two Pentium D 900-series processors in our test are actually a Pentium Extreme Edition 955 chip that’s been set to the appropriate core and bus speeds and had Hyper-Threading disabled in order to simulate the actual products. Performance should be identical to the real McCoys.

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 D 930 3.0GHz
Pentium D 950 3.4GHz
Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz
Pentium Extreme Edition 955 3.4GHz
Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2.0GHz
Athlon 64 X2 4800+
2.4GHz
Athlon 64 FX-57 2.8GHz
Athlon 64 FX-60
2.6GHz
Opteron 165 1.8GHz
Opteron 180 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)

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 520W 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
Per our custom, we begin with some synthetic memory benchmarks. These numbers aren’t clear indicators of how application performance will look, but they can tell us some interesting things about the memory subsystems of these processors.

The integrated memory controller on the AMD chips here makes for an unusual dynamic: memory bandwidth rises dramatically with CPU clock speeds, despite the fact that all of these CPUs are talking to the same DIMMs, using the same timings, over the same motherboard. The Opteron 165, with its relatively low 1.8GHz clock speed, demonstrates throughput considerably lower than the Opteron 180.

Notice that the performance of the Opteron 180 and Athlon 64 X2 4800+ is, for all intents, identical. This is the first of many graphs you’ll see where these two chips’ performance is separated only by the margin of error in the test itself (and perhaps some minor revision differences in silicon between the two.)

Our version of Linpack isn’t optimized enough to serve as a true scientific computing benchmark, but it does show us the impact of moving through different stages of the memory hierarchy, from L1 cache to L2 and then into main memory—at least on one of the two cores on each CPU. You can see how the Opteron 165’s larger L2 cache boosts throughput at larger matrix sizes compared to the Athlon 64 X2 3800+. The Pentium D processors, by contrast, all have larger L2 caches that can hold all of the matrix sizes in this test.

Memory bandwidth and latency are interrelated, so these results shouldn’t be a big surprise. The Opteron 180 matches similar dual-core Athlon 64s and easily outpaces an Intel chip thanks to its integrated memory controller. The 165, though, is a little bit slower due to its lower clock speed. Still, the 165’s access latencies are lower than any Pentium we tested.

 

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.

The Opteron 180 pretty much outclasses the Pentium D 950 here, scoring much higher overall. Even the Opteron 165 edges out the Pentium D 950 by a point, and it’s way ahead of the Pentium D 930. Notably, though, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ turns in a higher score than the Opteron 165. In this case, the X2’s higher clock speeds offset the advantages conferred by the 165’s larger L2 cache.

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 many of our previous CPU reviews.

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. Because WorldBench tests are entirely scripted, however, we weren’t able to capture Task Manager plots for them.

Regardless of the compiler used to generate the executable, the Opteron 180 finishes encoding faster than the Pentium D 950. On the other hand, the Pentium D 930 and Opteron 165 split the difference, with the Pentium chip proving faster when Intel’s compiler is used.

MusicMatch Jukebox

In MusicMatch Jukebox, too, the Opteron 180 finishes well before the competition, while the Opteron 165 is at the back of the pack.

 

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

Clock frequency tends to matter quite a bit in video processing, in part because of the looping, repetitive nature of the task. Here, once more, the Opteron 165 struggles to keep pace with the Pentium D 930 and A64 X2 3800+, while the Opteron 180 simply wallops the Pentium D 950.

 

Image processing

Adobe Photoshop

ACDSee PowerPack

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.

The Opteron 180’s performance is uniformly excellent in our image processing tests. As for the 165, well, it depends on what you want to do. The Pentium D 930 edges past it in WorldBench’s ACDSee test, but not in Photoshop. picCOLOR performance is very close between the Opteron 165 and the Pentium D 930, but the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ steps ahead of them both.

 

Multitasking and office applications

MS Office

Mozilla

Mozilla and Windows Media Encoder

It’s beginning to look like no contest between the Opteron 180 and the Pentium D 950. The 180 even tends to outrun the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 with some consistency. In the two Mozilla tests, the Opteron 165’s larger cache looks to be giving it an advantage over the 200MHz-faster Athlon 64 X2 3800+. That hasn’t happened often in our tests so far, but it can happen.

 

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.

Sphinx turns the tables a bit for once, and the processors based on Intel’s Netburst architecture get a chance to shine.

WinZip

Nero

These WinZip and Nero scores follow the general trends we’ve seen so far: the Opteron 180 is very fast, while the Opteron 165 is slightly ahead of the Pentium D 930 but slower than the Athlon 64 X2 3800+.

 

3D modeling and rendering

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

Remember what I said about trends on the last page? Yeah, here we are again. The Opteron 165 slots in right between its two closest competitors, while the Opteron 180 crushes the Pentium D 950.

Cinebench’s shading tests involve basic 3D modeling and manipulation, and they are largely single-threaded. The Opteron 180 winds up in the middle of the pack here, with the single-core Athlon 64 FX-57 hanging on to the top spot. The Opteron 165’s pokey clock frequency translates into last place across the board in these tests.

 

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.

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.

The finishing order in our 3D rendering tests looks rather familiar, no?

 

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.

This test does a nice job of showing the peak throughput of Intel’s Netburst architecture when a problem is easily parallelizable and software is able to make use of SIMD extensions like SSE2. Unfortunately for Intel, most computing problems look more like the ones we’ve seen on the preceding pages, where Netburst proves to be relatively weak.

 

Gaming performance
OK, to heck with it. We’re gonna run games on these things. Nobody tell AMD!

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.

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

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.

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.

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

The general performance trends we’ve established remain largely intact throughout our gaming tests. The Opteron 180 may be all business, but it plays a mean game of F.E.A.R. in a pinch.

 

3DMark05

3DMark05’s CPU test is multithreaded and uses the CPU to perform vertex calculations.

The main 3DMark tests shake out about like we’ve come to expect from this group of CPUs, but the Pentiums prove relatively strong when handling vertex processing duties.

 

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, PowerNow!, 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. We have omitted the Pentium D 930 and 950 processors here because we don’t have actual samples of these individual chips; our “simulated” versions with an underclocked Extreme Edition 955 are fine for performance testing, but not for power consumption.

Generally, systems based on recent AMD processors have consumed quite a bit less power under load than the competing Pentium boxes. That’s certainly the case again here. Despite its lower clock speed, the Opteron 165 requires more power under load than the Athlon 64 X2 3800+, perhaps due to its larger onboard cache eating up more power.

 

Overclocking
So how well does the Opteron 165 overclock? In order to find out, I slapped a Zalman CNPS9500 LED cooler on it and went to town, gradually cranking up the clock speed. The 165 was a model citizen, booting right into Windows each time with no hint of instability. With only 1.375V of power, a very modest overvolt, I was able to get this thing running at 2.7GHz—with air cooling. Check it out:

Whoa

Note that in order to get the Opteron 165 running at that speed, I had to raise the HyperTransport link to 300MHz. The 165’s default 9X multiplier nearly became the limiting factor in our overclocking efforts. Not every motherboard would handle that well, but our Asus A8N32-SLI worked like a champ. The only precaution I took was lowering the HyperTransport multiplier from 5X to 4X.

Unfortunately, one of our Opteron 165’s two cores wasn’t quite stable at 2.7GHz in Prime95, and raising the CPU voltage as high as 1.475V was no help. Ultimately, we had to settle for 2655MHz as our peak clock speed. For the tests below, I had the RAM underclocked slightly to 380MHz, just to be safe. That was about as close to a 400MHz memory clock as we could get with the HyperTransport link at 295MHz.

Believe it or not, our Opteron 180 was practically allergic to overclocking. There’s typically less headroom in a high-frequency part, but in light of our Opteron 165’s sheer willingness, I didn’t expect to see the Opteron 180 throwing errors in Prime95 at 2.58GHz and 1.375V. More voltage, again, wasn’t the answer. I eventually decided not to bother finding the limits on the 180 because it was so much less interesting than the 165. So, here’s how the Opteron 165 performs at 2.65GHz…

Yep, it’s really frickin’ fast.

 
Conclusions
Fortunately, characterizing the performance of these two CPUs is fairly easy, thanks to a startling amount of consistency in terms of relative performance across a range of benchmarks. The Opteron 180 performs exactly like an Athlon 64 X2 4800+, which is to say, exceptionally well. This thing outruns the Pentium D 950—ostensibly its most direct competitor from Intel—virtually across the board. The Opteron 180 also outperforms the more expensive Pentium Extreme Edition 955 in the lion’s share of our benchmark suite. For high-end, single-socket workstations, the Opteron 180 is as good as it gets right now. Only the Athlon 64 FX-60 is faster, but that chip is targeted at gaming PCs rather than workstations.

The performance picture for the Opteron 165 is more complex. More often than not, the 165 scores higher in the benchmarks than its closest real competitor, the Pentium D 930, but the Opteron 165 doesn’t have nearly the dominance that the Opteron 180 does. Although AMD’s K8 architecture delivers quite a bit of performance per clock, the Opteron 165’s 1.8GHz clock speed is low enough to keep it from really exploiting that architectural advantage. The 165’s relatively low memory bandwidth and high memory access latencies in our synthetic memory tests compared to the other K8 chips we tested are testaments to that fact. I would recommend stepping up to a higher clock speed if possible. At 2GHz, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ looks like a better option for those building their own systems, at least if we’re talking about running at stock speeds.

Of course, another way of stepping up the frequency is to overclock the stuffing out of your CPU, and for that wonderfully questionable pursuit, the Opteron 165 is about as good as it gets. [Insert old-timer reference to Celeron 300A here.] There’s no guarantee that the one you buy will reach 2.65GHz and run stable like ours did, but you can probably bet that it will reach well beyond its stock 1.8GHz and that its performance at that higher clock speed will be very nice indeed. For a relatively affordable dual-core PC enthusiast’s processor, the Opteron 165 looks very attractive. The only thing is, you will need a heavily overclockable motherboard in order to reach the near-300MHz HyperTransport speeds we used to realize this chip’s full potential. Some folks may wish to investigate the Opteron 170 as a possible alternative, especially given AMD’s apparent efforts to slow supply of the 165. The 170’s 10X multiplier will be easier on mediocre mobos, and may be worth the extra cash. 

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