AMD's Socket 939 Offers More with Much of the Same

Socket 939's Offers Window Into AMD's Future

There is considerable activity in the platform battleground between Intel and AMD these days. AMD today has launched its new Socket 939 platform that is slated to accommodate all AMD64 processors until at least the middle of next year. At the same time, Intel is preparing for the launch of its Socket T architecture within the next few weeks.

At this juncture in the war between the two processor giants, AMD is the adversary that has been successful in creating more demand for its products as of late. Taking into account the benchmark results and the industry support for the new platform, AMD does not have much to worry about. Meanwhile, Intel is still struggling to get the components ready for its new platform launch.

Intel also plans to replace most of the components in its existing platform, while AMD mostly tweaks an architecture that has a proven track record for its new launch. In fact, Intel is attempting to accommodate new areas of potential demand by designing a platform that features PCI Express, DDR2 memory and its socket LGA775 (Land Grid Array), which has proven controversial since the pins are part of the socket and not part of the CPU.

In the AMD camp, the Athlon64's integrated memory controller is very efficient and thus postpones the need for DDR2 memory for the time being - or at least until the price of DDR and DDR2 approach parity. Recently, AGP has proven to be fast enough for today's applications as well, leaving only Socket T or LGA775 in the spotlight for Intel. However, motherboard makers worry about higher return rates due to the socket's sensitive pins. The processor, for example, must be installed with great care, since the socket's pins can become easily bent.

AMD's Socket 939 is really not much different than its predecessor and is relatively easy to handle. Indeed, motherboard makers already have experience implementing the Socket 940, which is similar in design. The design will also facilitate other board makers entering the Athlon64 market. Socket 939 can accommodate both the new Athlon64 FX and the new Athlon64 versions, while faster versions based on a 90 nm process will see subsequent launch.