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AMD's current top platform based on the socket 939 came off the starting line with a convincing run. The only drawback is the relatively high priced processors - the Athlon64 3500+ now represents the entry model for AMD processors with two-channel DDR400 memory.
Next year, the socket 754 is bound to be populated more and more with Semprons, while the socket 939 processors based on Winchester and San Diego cores (with 512 kB vs. 1 MB L2 cache) will be the contenders for future performance boosts. Both will be based on 90 nm production processes as well as two DDR400 memory channels.
In comparison with the Pentium 4 models, the socket 939 Athlons came out on top: for gaming the Athlon64 is unbeatable, but it also showed better results for more typical applications. The P4 showed better performance with encoding tasks and also offered quicker system response for many applications thanks to Hyper Threading.
If we add the price for 2x 512 MB memory and a good motherboard, the Athlon64 systems are bound to win: AMD may command hefty premiums for their top processor models, but the DDR2 533 memory for P4s is much more expensive than DDR400. Also, the price for Intel chipsets is generally higher than for imports from Taiwan, which shows up in the prices for motherboards.