Generation Change: Eight Motherboards For The Athlon 64

64 Bit Bright Future: Eight Athlon64 Mobos Reviewed

Speculation was certainly rife about AMD and its new 64 bit Athlon. While some presaged the end of AMD, others were hoping for a peerless, super Athlon. Neither scenario occurred. But the direction in which the chipmaker heads today once again appears clear, backed up by a top notch product range including a pricing policy that's brimming with self assurance. AMD is even committing a multi billion dollar capital outlay to build a new fab unit.

It certainly won't be a cakewalk, however, because despite the delay with Intel's Pentium 4 successor, Prescott, the market leader has more than one string to its bow. Simply notching up the clock speed a bit, for example, tweaks some reserves out of the Northwoord architecture. This is enabled, by the way, by the Xeon based Pentium 4 Extreme Edition that was launched just ahead of the Athlon64 FX.

For its part, while the Athlon64 is no bargain basement steal, either, its performance and capabilities nonetheless make it an interesting product: it supports SSE technology from Intel, is a true 64 bit machine, is the first desktop processor to offer a power management system and features an integrated memory controller.

In our view, the real advance right now is very clearly in the area of power management, which is dubbed Cool & Quiet. It is based on AMD's PowerNow! technology that reduces the processor speed and supply voltage in several stages when the processor is inactive. This step is completely correct considering the ongoing race to increase speed at any cost, since nary a component in today's modern PCs makes do without a whirring fan. After all, not everyone can afford or is willing to lay out the cash for a water cooling system.

In this regard, we can state that the Athlon64 is currently the most sensible choice in the high end desktop segment. The Clawhammer architecture impacts the mainboards insofar as it lowers the costs for chipsets: AMD itself now takes care of the memory interface.