Inside the New FX
I certainly hope you weren’t expecting some major shift in manufacturing technology or bevy of extra features. AMD has its recipe for success and is sticking to it once again. The Athlon 64 FX-60 is, fundamentally, two Athlon 64 FX-55 processors on a single die.
The chip runs at 2.6 GHz, perhaps a disappointing backwards slide from the single-core FX-57’s 2.8 GHz operating frequency. Each core has its own 64KB L1 instruction cache and 64KB L1 data cache, along with separate 1MB L2 repositories.
Nothing about the memory controller has changed. It’s still 128-bits wide and designed for vanilla DDR memory support at speeds of up to 400 MHz, yielding a maximum of 6.4 GBps of memory bandwidth. The HyperTransport bus trucks along at 1 GHz DDR, accommodating up to 8 GBps bi-directionally as well.
The packaging is the same—939-pin micro-PGA. So is the process technology—90nm Silicon on Insulator from Fab 30 in Dresden, Germany. Of course, transistor count goes up relative to past FX-series chips, topping 233.2 million spread across 199 square millimeters.
Value-added extras also persist. Enhanced Virus Protection is present and accounted for, as is SSE3 support. You’ll have to wait for virtualization technology, unfortunately, as that’s being introduced in an upcoming stepping revision.
Sometimes it’s good when nothing changes, though. For instance, AMD is able to run the FX-60 at 2.6 GHz—200 MHz faster than the advanced Athlon 64 4800+—without breaching its established 110W thermal power barrier. In other words, the same heatsinks used for months now continue serving the FX-60’s purposes here today.
The situation is further aided along thanks to Cool’n’Quiet technology, a feature that hasn’t always been openly advertised on the high-end FX-series. At its minimum power state, Cool’n’Quiet is able to get the FX-60 running at frequencies as low as 1.2 GHz. At that point, its maximum thermal power drops to a scant 46.7W
You could argue that Intel’s 65nm Pentium Extreme Edition 955 did the same thing; however, a much higher thermal design power coupled with some clear initial thermal anomalies suggest it’ll take much more than a shift in lithography to get Intel back on track. Fortunately, representatives at the company indicate the upcoming Conroe core will do just that. Until then, AMD continues selling the cooler chip.
Not good enough? Alright. Expect to pay an MSRP of $1,031 for a boxed FX-60 at launch. Yes, AMD says it’ll be available immediately. That’s more expensive than a Pentium Extreme Edition 955 and the same price as an Athlon 64 FX-57. You’ll have to pick your flagship poison carefully because it isn’t an affordable decision to make either way.
Incidentally, while Intel announced the Presler-based Extreme Edition late in 2005, it still isn’t available at retail.