AMD Platform Troubles
Since AMD no longer produces any chipsets for the desktop market, it has to rely on its partnerships with other companies to get them produced. The list is quite impressive, as it includes companies such as ALi/ULi, ATI NVIDIA, SiS and VIA.
Today, NVIDIA is considered the top dog in the AMD chipset market, and has thus become AMD's closest and most important partner. VIA, on the other hand, has often alienated both buyers and motherboard manufacturers in the past by providing chipsets suffering from a number of issues. ATI has not been able to provide AMD desktop chipsets in a timely manner, and those models that were announced sometimes never appeared.
As a result, AMD has not been providing a stable and mature desktop platform itself. Indeed, in our experience with test samples of new chipsets, we were often confronted with a number of problems. In some cases, the products had still not achieved an acceptable level of maturity by their official launch date, and continued to cause instability and crashes. Other products, such as VIA's PT880 Pro, which we tested in January 2005, never played an important role in the market.
We would like to see a full care solution such as the one Intel offers - chipsets and processors from the same company, tried and tested for compatibility - which would help to prevent teething troubles between the CPU and the rest of the platform.
Three chipsets were introduced with the launch of the socket 939 platform:
- NVIDIA nForce 3
- SiS 755 / SiS 756
- Via K8T800
Of these, NVIDIA's nForce chipset achieved the greatest market acceptance. Of course, in this industry with its very short product cycles, just as motherboard makers finally get a chipset under control, the next one is around the corner already.
In October 2004, AMD made the transition to PCI Express technology with NVIDIA's newest chipset, the nForce 4. Once again, the platform got a rocky start, with retail boards only hitting the channels some time after the launch. Also, several board revisions were necessary before the motherboard makers finally got a grip on the chipset. However, today the nForce 4 is considered the most stable AMD desktop platform, a view that was supported by the lack of problems during our live stress test.
For now, AMD's CPUs have to make do without DDR2 memory as a result of the non-upgradeable integrated memory interface. Thanks to the very good memory performance, the need for an upgrade is not very pressing at present anyway. After all, AMD achieves 95% of the 6.4 GB/s bandwidth theoretically possible on the Athlon 64's dual-channel interface.