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AMD Socket 939 3800+

Review by Jason Jacobs on 7/19/04
Processor Provided by AMD

AMD Athlon 64

Socket 939

Socket 939 introduces the following key technology upgrades:

  1. Die Shrink to .13-micron
  2. Dual on Chip Memory Controller
  3. Cool 'N' Quiet Technology

First we have a die shrink from 193mm² to 144mm², save for the FX53 which utilizes the larger 193mm² due to cache size. We also see a healthy jump in raw Mhz, but not the jump that many would probably have hoped for; after all, the top-rated P4 is running at a slick 3.4ghz and the top rated AMD runs an entire 1ghz lower at 2.4ghz. With this gap in actual clock speeds, those that think mhz is everything would easily conclude that the performance of the P4 3.4 would crush the AMD 64 3800+ running 2.4ghz. Later, TWL will discover if AMD's comparatively small increase in clock speed (mhz) hinders its performance.

AMD Processors break down as follows:

cpu chart

Its easy to see the emphasis that AMD places upon the dual memory channel controller of the socket 939 over the socket 754 in their speed ratings as shown above.

Dual Channel Memory Controller

With its design of the Socket 939 processor, AMD has addressed two major concerns that users had with the socket 754 processors. The first concern was the lack of support for regular DDR memory in some chipsets and processors that could only use registered, ECC DDR. The second was that socket 754 supported only single channel memory. Twin sticks of ram could be present but only in a single channel configuration. This meant there was potentially some [memory, and therefore system] performance loss for users of the 754 processor, which is clearly counter-productive for AMD's plans and goals. With socket 939, AMD has added support for regular (non-ECC, non-registered) DDR RAM, as well as a dual-channel memory controller on the processor. Since both latency and dual-channel configuration play a crucial role in many real world performance and benchmarking tools, TWL expected noticeable gains from these improvements.

Cool 'N' Quiet

According to AMD Cool 'N' Quiet is the following:

AMD Cool‘n’Quiet™ technology is an innovative solution available on AMD Athlon™ 64 processor-based systems that can effectively lower the power consumption and enable a quieter-running system while delivering performance on demand, for the ultimate computing experience.

AMD and its partners have worked together to implement Cool‘n’Quiet Technology as a system feature that consists of: a processor with Cool‘n’Quiet Technology enabled, motherboard, supporting BIOS, software driver and CPU cooler.

The benefits of Cool 'N' Quiet are the following:

  1. Reduced power consumption. (Lower electric bills, and contributes to #3)
  2. Reduced noise in house and business environments.
  3. Lower operating temperatures.

For Cool 'N' Quiet to work, it must be supported by the motherboard, processor, and drivers. The effect is to allow the motherboard and operating system to work together to throttle back the voltage and cpu multiplier simultaneously to lower operating frequency and thermal output. There have been programs in the past developed by third parties that used a similar process to throttle processor usage and voltage. Anyone who has ever used those programs knows that they did accomplish what they were supposed to do, but did so at the staggering cost of system stability. Lockups and system crashes were frequent and plagued a system, often even after the program was removed; only a full format solved the problem. AMD's Cool 'N' Quiet works flawlessly in all testing by TWL without any crashes or system instability in programs. The stability achieved by AMD's Cool 'N' Quiet solution, as compared to third party applications, lies in the coordination of resources on multiple levels (OS/Drivers, Motherboard/BIOS, and CPU). By developing a standard, and deploying aspects of the standard in all affected components, a stable implementation of the concept could finally be realized. In regular use outside of intensive programs the system will operate between 800 and 2400 mhz, usually settling at about 1000mhz. The noticeable difference comes in with system noise and thermal output.

As you can see, the difference is dramatic. It also shows another interesting aspect of AMD's progress. Anyone remember those older 1Ghz AMD athlon's I spoke of on the previous page? Go check what their operating voltage was, I guarantee that no one could get an older Thunderbird to operate at 1.136v. It clearly shows that with the decreases in die size, and advances in technology, that AMD has come a long way.

For reference, a stock Pentium 4 3.0 Prescott runs a Vcore of 1.55v, and anyone familiar with this processor need only read a few reviews or obtain one to discover that it will double as a space heater for an apartment. That's right, Intel doesn't offer its consumers anything like Cool 'N' Quiet. That doesn't seem to affect most Intel consumers who seem happy with hot Intel products that seem to perform less but at higher clock speeds. For additional clarification of this issue, free to check out this article on the "Megahertz Myth." Even Apple has hopped on board, and advertises this fact. Intel is the only manufacturer fighting on the clock rate front while others are always seeking technology and performance improvements. Perhaps it is time that corporations and businesses look beyond the number on the box and into the performance behind the machine. (Although, Intel has recently announced they plan a partial shift in product naming schemes, but will admittedly still advertise clock speeds of their top product lines. They plan to conveniently leave clock speeds out of their mobile and lower-end models.)

Enhanced Virus Protection

AMD has incorporated some code into socket 939 processors called the NX bit. NX stands for "No Execute," and prevents code from executing due to a buffer overflow. A buffer overflow is a primary method of attack used by viruses to execute and infect computers. AMD has implemented the NX bit into AMD 64 Socket 939's in order to aid consumers of its products. This will be a great advantage to corporations with thousands of users that encounter e-mails and files which may be opened inadvertently causing virus infection and downtime. This feature will be fully supported once MS releases Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. This feature is absent from Intel processors, and thus Intel users will gain no benefit from this support in SP2. For more information check out AMD's Official Release.


On to the Performance Analysis

Page 1 Page 3


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