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Can Your Old Athlon 64 Still Game?

Test System And Conditions

Our test system for this article employs the Asrock 939 Dual SATA 2 motherboard, which is packed with an abundance of upgrade-oriented features. It supports native 8X AGP, PCI Express x16, single- and dual-core Socket 939 processors with dual-channel DDR memory, and even socket AM2 CPUs and DDR2 memory with a daughter board, which we used for testing.

While searching online auction sites, we have seen people spending $200 or more for a Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 4800+. It’s one of the fastest Socket 939 dual-core CPUs produced, but the device also represents a lot of money considering you can buy an even faster AM2 Athlon X2 for well under $100. Those stuck with Socket 939 will need to search the Web long and hard for a well-priced dual-core for their motherboard, but our AM2 compatible motherboard gives us the convenience of opting for an AM2 CPU with very little trouble and expense.

We chose the following CPUs to examine the effects they have on gaming performance. First is the AMD Athlon 64 4000+. It’s base don the San Diego design, runs at 2.4 GHz, sports 1 MB L2 cache, and is one of the faster single-core desktop CPUs made. The direct comparison dual-core to this device is the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (2.4 GHz 1 MB cache per core). Next, we chose the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200 + dual-core, which has a 2.2 GHz Manchester architecture with 512 KB L2 cache per core. The single-core direct comparison would be the A64 3500+, so our A64 4000+ should have an advantage both in clock speed and L2 cache in single-threaded applications. And lastly, the Athlon 64 X2 5600+ AM2 dual-core is a 2.8 GHz Windsor design with 1 MB L2 cache per core. With these three CPUs, we should get a good look at single- versus dual-core in gaming and have a good idea about how CPU clock speeds affect game play.

MotherboardAsrock 939 Dual SATA 2 Bios vs. P 2.30
Asrock AM2 CPU Board
RAM2 GB (2 * 1 GB) dual-channel Adata DDR 400 (3-3-3-8) for Socket 939
2 GB (2 *1GB) dual-channel Corsair DDR2 533 (4-4-4-12) for Socket AM2
Video CardsXFX GeForce 8800 GS 384 MB PCI Express 580MHz core/ 700(1400) MHz memory
HIS Radeon HD 4850 512 MB PCI Express 625 MHz core/ 993 (1986) MHz memory
Sound CardCreative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda 250GB 7200 RPM 16 MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s
Power SupplyAntec EarthWatts 430 W
OSWindows XP Professional 32 bit Service Pack 2
Display DriverNvidia ForceWare 174.74
AMD Catalyst 8.8
3DMark05 v. 1.3.0
3DMark06 v. 1.1.0
F.E.A.R. v.1.08
Far Cry v.1.4
Need For Speed Carbon 1.4
Test Drive Unlimited 1.66A
Oblivion 1.2
Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare 1.4
Crysis 1.2
  • Schip
    FIRST POST!!! Nice Article though. I knew my brother would soon be doomed with his P4 2.8c ;)
    Reply
  • "AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200 + dual-core, which has a 2.2 GHz Manchester architecture with 512 MB L2 cache per core."
    oau! that's a lot of cache :D
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    I haven't read the actual article yet, but I bet the simple answer is no!
    I've got a backup gaming rig at home that barely cuts it. An x2 1.9ghz (oc'ed to 2.4) with an 8800gtx and 3gb memory. That rig struggles at 1280x1024 in some situations, and it can only be attributed to the cpu really.
    Reply
  • bf2gameplaya
    2.8GHz Opteron 185 (up from 2.6GHz) with 2x1MB L2 cache is the ultimate s939 CPU....blows these weak benchmarks away.

    Who would have thought DDR would have such durability? There's something to be said for CAS2!
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Surprisingly, you can actually do fairly well. Of course, it depends on the app...
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    But your opteron cpu still limits the modern graphics cards.
    Two years back I bought my 8800gtx, and realized it wouldn't come to its full potential in my opteron 170 (@ 2.7). A friend with another gtx paired with an e6400 chip (@ 3ghz) scored a full 30% higher in 3dmark than I, and it showed in games. Even in wow where you'd expect a casio calculator would deliver enough graphics power.

    In short - ye ddr still work if you've got enthusiast parts, but that can't negate the effect a faster cpu would give. At least at decent resolutions (22" wide)
    Reply
  • dirtmountain
    This is a great article! It will give me something to show when i'm talking to people about a new system or just a GPU/PSU upgrade. Great job by Henningsen.
    Reply
  • NoIncentive
    I'm still using a P4 3.0 @ 3.4 with 1 GB DDR 400 and an nVidia 6800GT...

    I'm building a new computer next week.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    I can echo the findings in Crysis. It didn't matter what settings I ran with a 3700 Sandy and an X1950 pro, the framerate was almost the same (albeit low 20s because the card is slower). Added an E6600 to the mix and my framerate tripled at lower settings.

    It would have been interesting to see how a 3000+ Clawhammer (C0 stepping) would do in Crysis. Single-channel memory, poor overclocking capabilities... FAIL!
    Reply
  • ravenware
    bf2gameplaya2.8GHz Opteron 185 (up from 2.6GHz) with 2x1MB L2 cache is the ultimate s939 CPU....blows these weak benchmarks away.Who would have thought DDR would have such durability? There's something to be said for CAS2!
    Thia ia true about the DDR. I recall an article on toms right after the release of the AM2 socket which tested identical dual core processors against their 939 counterparts; the tests showed little to no performance gains.

    Great article, their has been some discussion about this in the forums as well.

    I currently own a 939 4200+ x2 that's paired with a 7800GT; and this article shows what I thought to be accurate about the AMD64 chips. Their not as fast as some of the C2D's but they still kick ass.

    Good job pointing out the single core factor in newer games too. As soon as the crysis demo was released I upgraded my San Diego core to a dual core and noticed the difference in crysis immediately.

    This article gives me further confidence in my decision to hold on upgrading my system. I want to hold out for Windows7 D3D11 and more money to build an ape sh** machine :D

    Nice article!!
    Reply