Think About ItÖ
Whatís In A Name?
The FX series has a certain degree of prestige over and above the standard Athlon 64 or Athlon 64 X2. Itís like a 911 Turbo versus the Carrera S. Itís a Mercedes-Benz AMG-tuned E55 against the vanilla E500. Itís Paganiís Zonda F head-to-head with the S 7.3. You get the picture. But does the Athlon 64 FX-60 dilute that heritage by taking a backwards step?
Brandon and I spent some time discussing the ramifications of AMDís decision here and came to the conclusion that this chip might have been better named an Athlon 64 X2 5200+, leaving the 5000+ moniker for a 2 x 512KB cache version. Giving it a higher designation than the FX-57 suggests itíll outperform the single-core 2.8 GHz model. And while thatís true in many cases, especially when youíre talking digital content creation, it isnít universal to all of our tests. FX-60 doesnít tell this chipís whole story.
On the flip side, AMD is keeping the FX-57 available for those gamers looking for the highest single-threaded performance today. Thatís a commendable move considering there will undoubtedly still be demand for the 2.8 GHz part.
A Mind To The Future
Something else youíll want to keep in mind: sexy as this part might be, AMD has plans to introduce a new socket interface in the first half of 2006. Itíll undoubtedly continue supporting the massive install base of Socket 939 platforms, but buying now means missing out on DDR2 support and virtualization technology, at the very least. Granted, it remains to be seen what DDR2 does for performance.
So, before dropping ten bills on an FX-60 and committing to a relatively doomed infrastructure, it would probably be prudent to take a wait-and-see approach at this juncture. Clichť as it might be, change is right around the corner.
Hoping for a little saving grace in the form of 2.8 GHz, we downloaded the latest BIOS from ASUSí Web site and tried tuning the Athlon 64 FX-60 up in half-multiplier increments. A few BIOS screens later, the 2.8 GHz barrier was easily breached with AMDís reference cooling solution.
The extra speed shaved three seconds from our Windows Media Encoder 9 test, bumped Quake 4 up to 127.2 frames per second from 123.4 at 1024x768, and boosted the synthetic 3DMark05 CPU score to 6450 from 6360.
For the sake of trying, we were able to get the FX-60 into Windows at 2.9 GHz and past the POST screen at 3 GHz. Neither setting proved stable enough to run benchmarks, though. An overclocker with liquid cooling would likely have little trouble getting much more performance from the fairly flexible FX-60.