Itís been a long time since weíve written about a new AMD part that didnít sport the FX moniker, just over 12 months to be exact. On May 7th, 2005, we first introduced you to AMDís new dual-core Athlon 64 X2 lineup, since then AMDís introduced only one additional X2 processor, the Athlon 64 X2 3800, a chip which AMD had no plans for initially, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ only went into production after AMD received an overwhelming outcry from the public for a cheaper X2 processor.
Despite the lack of new processor introductions from AMD, demand hasnít stopped for their Athlon 64 X2 processors, in fact if anything demand has only picked up. Last month AMD even raised
prices on some of their processors slightly. And now Dell plans to integrate AMDís Opteron line into some of their servers later this year. Make no mistake about it, this isnít the same AMD of six years ago that was often forced to compete on price with Intel, AMD is now in the enviable position of market leader when it comes to performance and power consumption, while Intel counters by pricing their dual-core processors at bargain-bin prices. On Newegg.com right now Intelís Pentium D 805 can be found for less than $130, while the Pentium D 820 sells for under $185. In comparison AMDís Athlon 64 X2 3800+ is priced at $297: you can buy two Pentium D 805ís for the price of just one X2 3800!
But the lack of new Athlon 64 X2 processor introductions from AMD over the course of the past year doesnít mean AMD hasnít been up to something. The company is about to embark on a brand new 65-nm manufacturing process and introduce a newer generation of Athlon 64 CPUs based on a tweaked K8 architecture. But before those chips are introduced AMDís got one other big project to tackle: the DDR2 transition.
DDR times two
AMDís relied on DDR400 to carry them for three years now. DDR400 has served AMD well over this time, but itís definitely beginning to show signs of age. DDR memory consumes more power than DDR2, and just flat out doesnít have the frequency headroom that DDR2 has.
When DDR2 was initially released, AMD stuck with DDR400 as it was more widely available, and thus cheaper than DDR2. Early DDR2 modules also shipped at higher latencies and clock speeds that werenít much greater than the fastest DDR modules of the time Ė the performance advantage just wasnít there. Of course, it also didnít hurt that by sticking with DDR400, it kept infrastructure costs down either.
The memory market is completely different today however. DDR2 modules sell for the same price, if not lower than equivalent DDR modules, while the latencies of newer DDR2 modules are lower than before. The latest DDR2 modules run at higher speeds as well, the 800MHz DDR2 memory in todayís latest AM2 processors provides up to 12.8GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth, thatís twice the bandwidth of the DDR400 memory found in the latest Athlon 64 processors.
The added bandwidth provided by DDR2 is going to play an increasingly important role as AMD cranks up the clock speed of their processors, and as more processor cores are integrated onto the CPUís die.