Very soon, the entire Athlon 64 family will be based on two processor cores only. Venice offers a 512 kB L2 cache, and the San Diego version has 1 MB. All previous cores - from Clawhammer and Newcastle up to Winchester - will be discontinued. Other technical features will remain unchanged. Devices with 1.8 to 2.8 GHz clock speed are available with the following features:
- An onboard memory controller for dual DDR400. Despite Intel making a splash with DDR2 667, the completely revamped chips and modules have little effect on real-life performance. AMD will continue to offer better-value DDR memory, giving it a performance edge over Intel.
- The non-execute bit (NX for short) enables the operating systems to mark memory areas as non-executable and thus eliminates virus attacks by means of "buffer overflows". By the way, at its presentations, AMD has now started using the term "execute disable," which is how Intel describes the capability.
- Cool & Quiet: With the help of a BIOS version and a processor driver, which can be quickly installed with Windows, the system can throttle down the processor speed at low loads in several stages (called p-states) to 1000 MHz or 800 MHz (depending the on model). The supply voltage is also cut to reduce heat dissipation and energy consumption.
- 64 bit-enabled: 64 bit software has considerable performance potential even if there is not much of it on the market at present. The larger address space also means that more than 4 GB of main memory can be accommodated.
Although it's true that the Athlon 64 FX-57 is a very fast processor, we also generally advise against it for the average user. The differences between a PC with a run-of-the-mill processor and one fitted with the top model are just too slight these days. Or, to put it another way: The sometimes drastic added costs for faster-clocked chips should only be contemplated if you can afford to part with the extra cash or if you really benefit from the added value. Don't forget to factor in the higher energy costs, either.
A fast graphics card is much more important for games these days than the very best processor money will buy. A faster hard disk can also make a difference, too. And you'll have more fun with a big TFT display than you will with 200 MHz of extra speed.