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Spring Speed Leap: AMD Athlon64 FX-53


The Athlon64 FX clearly beats its archrival's processors in most of our benchmarks. The Intel processors all collect points, in some cases dramatically, in speed-sensitive applications such as rendering or audio and video compression, and with applications optimized for HyperThreading. However, as soon as 3D applications and games are run, FX steamrolls ahead. That must be annoying for Intel, since the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is targeted for these applications.

Compared to $999 for the 3.4 GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, the $733 price tag for the Athlon64 FX-53, represents a great value, especially in consideration of the performance differences between the two processors. Indeed, the FX is a whopping 35% cheaper than the P4 Extreme Edition. The processor supports the AMD-backed Cool & Quiet to reduce dissipation and fan noise during idle or partial-load phases, and, together with the Service Pack 2 for WindowsXP, offers more security. Overclocking is built-in.

Neither platform is really likely to stand the test of time: while Intel will replace Socket 478 with Socket 775, AMD will phase out Socket 940 in favor of Socket 939 in the next quarter, which will be able to accommodate both the Athlon64 and the faster FX. Nevertheless would-be purchasers of an FX system shouldn't be left out in the cold: AMD's grand plan envisages even faster processors for Socket 940, too, while Intel plans an upgrade to LGA 775 from 3.6 GHz.

Regardless of these factors, we see arguments why power users should wait for the new AMD platform: on the one hand, the HyperTransport protocol will be stepped up to 1 GBs, upstream and downstream, and so promise even more performance. On the other hand, upcoming chipsets such as nVIDIA's nForce3 250 Gb will offer interesting features such as Gigabit Ethernet with integrated Firewall function and a Serial ATA controller; VIA's K8T890 will appear with PCI Express support in the third quarter.