||AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 Review
June 26, 2005
Summary: After "officially" launching the Athlon 64 X2 at Computex earlier this month, today AMD is unveiling their latest FX processor, the FX-57. As we mentioned in our dual-core article, the FX is aimed towards gamers, and features breakthrough clock speeds. See how AMD's latest chip compares to the latest Athlon 64 X2 4800+, (including overclocked scores just shy of 3.0GHz) in this review!
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 13 )|
At the high-end, the compromise is minimal. AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 cedes very little to other single-core Athlon chips, even in applications written with one thread in mind. With a little bit of overclocking, it’s relatively easy to hit the same clock speeds and the addition of a second core really bolsters threaded software. When you then consider the convenience of recycling your existing Socket 939 motherboard and memory, paying to play just isn’t as bad.
Nevertheless, AMD is sticking to its story that single-core processors will persist as the best option for hardcore gamers for a while yet. You see, the 90nm process on which the Athlon 64 is currently manufactured has been around for a while. If you draw parallels to a recipe for cherry cake, AMD has tweaked the ingredients for an optimally fluffy, flavorful dessert. Now the company is selling an incredibly complicated German chocolate cake and it’s taking time to dial that one in as well, which is why there’s currently a frequency discrepancy between the two architectures. Until AMD closes the gap between them, single-core will be faster in games.
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It’s admittedly hard to validate the Athlon 64 FX-55 when an Athlon 64 X2 4800+ has little trouble hitting 2.6 GHz, though. If you’re already willing to drop a grand, why not spring for the model better positioned to bolster the software currently in development, especially since it also does a knock-out job handling today’s apps?
AMD is ready to prove its Athlon 64 FX is still top dog in the gaming world by again turbo charging the chip’s core frequency to 2.8GHz. The new addition is naturally named Athlon 64 FX-57, in line with the naming convention we’ve born witness to for a couple of years now.
| The Same Ol’ FX||Page:: ( 2 / 13 )|
A Familiar Architecture
San Diego is characterized by a 1MB L2 cache, like the 130nm ClawHammer that preceded it. The core’s technological equivalent is Venice, which has already been available for some time with 512KB of L2. Although the FX-57 operates 200 MHz faster than the FX-55, jumping over to this new core helps keep thermal output manageable. Maximum thermal power is still rated at 104W, meaning that any cooling solution designed for the FX-55 works here as well.
The rest of the core’s vital specifications are the same. You get 128KB of L1 cache, divided between 64KB of data and 64KB of instruction memory. It still interfaces with a Socket 939 interface, and continues to support DDR memory at speeds of up to 400 MHz, yielding up to 6.4 GBps of memory bandwidth. The HyperTransport bus continues to operate at 1 GHz (2 GHz bi-directionally).
Then there are the value-added extras. Of course, 64-bit extensions are inherent to the architecture and now exploitable through Microsoft’s Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. Enhanced Virus Protection is another, accessible through Windows XP Service Pack 2 and used to cut back on certain types of malicious code. Finally, Cool’n’Quiet technology is now a standard feature on the Athlon 64 FX. Used to cut back on power consumption and heat output by reducing clock frequency, the feature can be turned off through your BIOS in order to maintain full performance.
| Pricing, Platforms, and Overclocking||Page:: ( 3 / 13 )|
In comparison, a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ sells for $1,001, while the 3.73GHz Extreme Edition lists for $999. No longer may AMD lay claim to the value title, although it seems to have little trouble regularly redefining what it means to enable higher levels of performance.
AMD claims the FX-57 will be available immediately, with systems shipping in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Nothing changes with regard to platform compatibility. The 2.8 GHz Athlon 64 FX-57 runs in the same Socket 939 motherboards as its predecessor, fits within the same thermal envelope and consequentially uses the same heatsinks as well. A BIOS update will likely be require in order to properly identify the CPU, but that’s pretty much standard fare by now.
AMD rolled out strained silicon with its 130nm Athlon 64 FX-55 in order to enable speeds as high as 2.6 GHz. Further refinements and a move to 90nm have yielded the 2.8 GHz we see here today. It doesn’t seem that the process currently has a whole lot of extra headroom quite yet, though. While many others report success with overclocks in the 3 GHz range, our FX-57 sample remained stable at up to 2.9GHz using a 14.5x multiplier. Of course, 3 GHz ran with both a 15x ratio and higher bus speeds; however, Windows Media Encoder would regularly crash. Performance still increased at 2.9 GHz, as you’ll see in the benchmark charts, though.
Just for kicks we decided to do a little informal dual-core overclocking as well. Lo and behold, the X2 4800+, with a bit of coaxing, also hit 2.8 GHz. It took a 233 MHz bus, 12x multiplier, 4x HyperTransport ratio and 1.5V, but the configuration actually ran stably.
| System Setup||Page:: ( 4 / 13 )|
AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 (2.8 GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 (2.6 GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (2.4 GHz)
AMD Opteron 875 (2.2 GHz)
AMD Opteron 252 (2.6 GHz)
Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840 (3.2 GHz)
Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73 GHz
Intel Pentium 4 570J (3.8 GHz)
Intel Pentium 4 540J (3.2 GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 4000+ (2.4 GHz)
ASUS K8N-DL nForce Professional Motherboard
Intel D955XBK 955X Express Motherboard
Intel D925XECV2 925XE Express Motherboard
ASUS A8N-SLI nForce4 SLI Motherboard
1GB Corsair DDR-400 CAS 2 Registered Memory (2x512MB)
1GB Micron DDR2-667 CAS 5 (2x512MB)
1GB Corsair DDR2-533 CAS 3 Pro Series Memory (2x512MB)
1GB Corsair DDR-400 CAS 2 Xpert Series Memory (2x512MB)
ATI RADEON X850 XT
Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 400GB
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2
Desktop resolution 1024x768, 32-bit color, 85Hz refresh
All power saving options were turned off, as were the Automatic Update and System Restore services. Graphics options under the ‘Performance’ tab were all disabled for maximum performance.
As you’ll see, we’re again doing a few things differently. Baseline benchmarks now begin at 1024x768. Although it’s certainly relevant to show off performance at 800x600 or 640x480, where you’d typically see the greatest differences between processor and platforms, those settings are really falling by the wayside and in no way reflect actual game play. You’ll be surprised nonetheless. Even at 1024x768, there’s plenty of difference between competing chips.
Windows Media Encoder 9
SiSoft Sandra 2005
| Windows Media Encoder 9||Page:: ( 5 / 13 )|
Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9
Media encoding apps are where the latest dual-core processors show best. Indeed, the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ has little trouble taking a first place finish here converting Microsoft’s The Magic of Flight 720p movie. The Extreme Edition 840 takes a second place finish, followed by the Extreme Edition 3.73 GHz chip, which doesn’t benefit from dual-core, but is certainly helped along by Hyper-Threading. AMD’s Athlon 64 FX-57 follows in kind performing admirably, but clearly behind.
| 3DMark05||Page:: ( 6 / 13 )|
Gaming is where AMD says the FX excels, and so it’s little surprise to see the Athlon 64 FX-57 leading the pack in 3DMark05. Intel is nevertheless able to secure a strong second-place position with its 3.73 GHz Extreme Edition. As far as desktop processors go, the FX-55 takes third and is followed by the Athlon 64 X2 4800+. Both manufacturers actually do fairly well, in fact.
The gaming section of 3DMark05 primarily stresses graphics performance, despite the spread seen here between various architectures. However, it’s the CPU test that’s designed to tax processor alacrity. Futuremark even makes light use of threading, according to the metric’s documentation. AMD’s Athlon 64 FX-57 is apparently able to overcome its single-core disadvantage to finish ahead of competing models (though behind the X2 4800+). The dual-core Opteron 875 takes third place and is trailed by the Extreme Edition 840.
| PCMark04||Page:: ( 7 / 13 )|
PCMark04 is another synthetic measure of performance that’s again dominated by AMD’s dual-core X2 and Opteron families. Intel shows fairly well here as well, though in third and fourth place finishes.
Because the FX-57 is a single-core chip, it doesn’t fare as well in the overall test or CPU benchmark. That’s really in line with what we’d expect, though. AMD’s message is that this is the best gaming processor on the market. If your interests lay equally with gaming and content creation, a dual-core processor is likely the wiser choice.
| Cinebench 2003||Page:: ( 8 / 13 )|
Maxon Cinema 4D Cinebench 2003
| Doom 3||Page:: ( 9 / 13 )|
id Software Doom 3
Games are purportedly the FX’s strong suit, and games are where we expect to see the FX-57 distinguish itself from other processors. Indeed, at 1024x768 the chip is at a clear advantage in Doom 3. The shift to 1600x1200 reveals that an FX-57 really won’t buy you any extra performance in Doom 3, though.
| Half-Life 2||Page:: ( 10 / 13 )|
Valve Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2 is largely a similar story. Performance is phenomenal at 1024x768, while things even out to an extent at 1600x1200. But this time there is a more significant spread. The FX’s and Athlon 64 4000+ turn in top scores, as the Pentium 4 cores trail 13 to 20 frames behind.
| SiSoft Sandra 2005||Page:: ( 11 / 13 )|
| Ballistics Report: Athlon 64 FX-55||Page:: ( 12 / 13 )|
Performance: Once upon a time AMD held the gaming title, while Intel, with its multimedia instructions and efficient Hyper-Threading technology ruled the roost in media encoding. Some things have changed, while others haven’t. The Athlon 64 FX is still top dog in gaming. But now the Athlon 64 X2 dominates a majority of media metrics, too. Just remember that in many games, having a fast processor won’t necessarily translate into better performance.
Unlocked multiplier: Unlocked multipliers make life easier for overclockers looking for extra frequency. The Athlon 64 FX-57 similarly benefits from the added flexibility of an unrestricted clock multiplier. The caveat is that the new 90nm process doesn’t yet have a lot of elasticity. Our sample only made it to 2.9 GHz, though your mileage may vary with water cooling.
Value-Added Features: One of the Athlon 64’s strong points is its plethora of “extras” that improve its functionality. Enhanced Virus Protection is one example. Cool’n’Quiet is another. The 64-bit extensions for which the architecture is known also qualify. SSE3 was recently added, along with an improved memory controller.
Price: Slowly but surely, the Athlon 64 FX has risen in price. Originally in the $700s, AMD pushed the FX-55 up into the $800s, and the FX-57 now commands over $1,000. That price is going to be difficult for even the most rabid gamers to swallow, especially when you consider the alternatives…
The Market:…such as an Athlon 64 X2 4800+ lightly overclocked. Even at its stock speed, the dual-core X2 offerings appear to be more attractive solutions. They’re less expensive, work on existing platforms, and deliver 95 percent of the gaming performance. Given the choice, we’d take dual-core.
| Conclusion||Page:: ( 13 / 13 )|
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