Preview: Tom's Hardware takes a first look at AMD's AM2 platform

Westlake Village (CA) - 2006 is on track to become the most interesting year for the processor industry since the end of the Gigahertz race. With Intel prepping a new architecture and AMD set to defend its lead with its AM2 platform, customers should see a wave of innovation that goes well beyond clock speed. Tom's Hardware got a first impression of the capability of the AM2 platform.

In a seemingly effortless way, AMD has been able to counter virtually every single one of Intel's attempts to regain desktop performance leadership with its current product generation. The Athlon's architecture provided AMD everything it needed to achieve not only more performance and less heat dissipation, but also more credibility in new customer segments which increasingly soak up AMD's products, according to recent analyst reports.

While Intel will be answering later this year with its Merom/Conroe processors, AMD officially says that the introduction of its AM2 platform and DDR2 memory support in the second quarter of this year will be able to maintain its current lead. Unofficially, we know that AMD will launch six dual-core and two single-core AM2 processors on June 6 - later than initially expected but well in time for Intel's Conroe, which will be introduced in September. Tom's Hardware got its hands on a stable engineering sample of an Athlon 64 X2 4800+ for Socket AM2 and will publish benchmark results as first as a first impression of the new Socket and processors tomorrow.

However, it is clear that Socket AM2 is not just about performance, at least not until the arrival of DDR2-800 in the mainstream market. With current DDR2-667 memory, very little improvement should be expected as the integrated memory controller suffers from relaxed memory timings. It is rather performance-per-watt, which will determine the overall performance capability of most future processors.

According to our sources, AMD will be able to match Intel's 65 watt promise for mainstream desktop processors. While regular Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors are expected to stay in an 89 watt power envelope, there will be five low-power X2 models with a thermal design power of 65 watt as well. Even more impressive, AMD will drop the power consumption of the Athlon 64 3500+ and 3800+ single-core CPUs to 35 watts.

Read the complete first look at the AM2 Athlon 64 X2 4800+ engineering sample.

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