AMD unveils Athlon FX-57 gaming processor

Sunnyvale (CA) - Not everything has turned dual-core yet - single-cores still set the pace in most applications. AMD takes its FX series into a performance range where Intel cannot follow at this time. You may want to check your credit card balance before you buy: The new FX-57 is the most expensive desktop processor on the market.

If you haven't jumped on AMD's dual-core Athlon 64 X2 yet, but still want to upgrade your system, here is another option. At least when it comes to gaming and as long as multithreaded applications are rare, the FX series remains AMD's fastest offering.

The new processor posts specs which will make a few product managers at Intel jealous. The FX-57, based on the San Diego core, is AMD's first FX product manufactured in 90 nm. The chip is clocked at 2.8 GHz and is first in the product line to support DDR1-533 memory. New is also support for SSE3 instructions. As other San Diego cores, the chip integrates 1 MByte L2 cache. The Thermal Design Power is 104 watts.

Compared to the FX-55, AMD claims the FX-57 will post performance gains in the range of about seven percent.

Performance of the FX-57, however, is just half the story of AMD's announcement. For the first time, it becomes apparent how AMD intends to take advantage of its current lead over Intel in the high-end desktop segment. The company knows very well that Intel cannot follow at this time due to the high power consumption of the Pentium 4 processor. This confidence is shown in AMD's processor pricing.

While the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+, priced at $1001, was a clear sign that AMD claims leadership for high-end desktops, the FX-57 sets the bar even higher: Pricing is set at a stunning $1031, not only the highest price for any current desktop processor on the market - but also the highest price for any desktop processor ever, at least as far as we can remember. By the way, the first FX-51 was offered at $799.

Jonathan Seckler, senior product manager in AMD's microprocessor group, conceded that the FX has reached a high price point, but said the claim that it was the most expensive chip ever was limited to list pricing. He indicated that some Intel processors may have been sold at similar or higher price points in the past on the open market.

Seckler agreed that the FX pricing is an indication of AMD's current confidence. "Ever since the AMD64 platform was introduced we continued to execute well," he said. Looking back to the less successful mid-nineties, he said that "AMD has turned the corner" and therefore could afford to challenge Intel in processor pricing as well. Additionally, sales of the X2 chip apparently are going well and motivated AMD to inch pricing higher: "Sales of the X2 4800+ are very brisk," he said.

For now, AMD has no plans of introducing a dual-core FX part. Seckler said that "two or three multithreading-enabled game engines" or "consumer demand" could be tipping points that would lead AMD to launch a FX processor with two cores. At this, however, there are no plans to bring such a chip to the market. Seckler declined to comment on possible clock speeds for a dual-core FX. However, he said that a 2.8 GHz FX dual-core would require "alternative cooling" methods, which makes a FX-57 with two cores rather unlikely.

While AMD investors and analysts certainly will be happy to see AMD's processor prices flying high, some gamers may scratch their head and wonder if a desktop gaming chip can ever be worth $1031. Especially, if one considers the fact that this processor will be hopelessly outdated when multithreaded applications and games will be everywhere in a year from now. At least according to Jonathan Seckler, there is hope for users that AMD chips will not get much more expensive: "We always try to achieve parity with our competition. But I believe we have reached the outer limit of processor pricing."

Read the Tom's Hardware Guide review here:
Athlon 64 FX-57: Great Performance, High Price