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It wasn’t long ago that the Athlon 64 family of CPUs was launched by AMD and it has already had two new additions, the 3000+ and now the 3400+. The only difference is the speed and the 3400+ clocks in at 2.2GHz, making it as fast as the Athlon 64 FX51 processor in terms of raw GHz. But as we know from past experiences with AMD processors; GHz isn’t everything and the 3400+ is an amazingly fast CPU. It might not be that much faster than the 3200+ but it is one of the, if not the fastest consumer level processor around, although this is somewhat dependant on the application used.
I wouldn’t compare the 3400+ to the likes of the FX51 or the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition as these processors are not targeted at the mainstream market. So what we are left with is the 3.2GHz Pentium 4 and the Athlon 64 3200+. The Pentium 4 still has the edge in some specific applications that are optimised for Intel CPUs but in pretty much anything else, the 3400+ will be the fastest CPU realistically available to most of us.
Like all AMD chips it lacks the Hyper Threading support of the Pentium 4, but unless you regularly use multi-threaded applications you won’t find this much of a problem. As with all Athlon 64 processors (bar the FX51) it also has a single channel memory controller, which does limit performance somewhat. This can be seen if you pitch it against an FX51 with its dual channel memory controller.
The Athlon 64 family of processors feature 1MB of cache which is twice that of the Pentium 4 and the latest generation of Athlon XPs. Of course the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition has 2.5MB of cache, but then it costs over twice as much as the Athlon 64 3400+.
Talking of pricing, AMD has definitely got it right with this new chip. The 3400+ comes in at around £10 more than the Pentium 4 3.2GHz which is quite amazing for a brand new processor. This still puts it out of reach for most of us as at £316.47 it is far from cheap, especially when you can get the 3200+ for just over £200. On the other hand, if you want to have the bragging rights to the fastest processor without taking out a mortgage, then this is the one to get.
Of course you also get a true 64bit desktop processor, but as the only remotely mainstrem 64bit operating system currently available is 64bit Linux, this won’t hold too much appeal for most users yet. Hopefully 64bit Windows XP will appear soon, but of course you’ll still have to wait for 64bit applications and device drivers.
So how did it perform? Running our standard set of tests that we used for the Athlon 64 motherboard roundup the results were as expected. Using a Chaintech ZNF-150 motherboard the SYSmark 2002 overall 3400+ score was 17 points faster than the 3200+, with a jump from 270 to 287. Similar results are achieved across the board and for more detailed numbers you can have a look at the graphs on the following page.
The Athlon 64 3400+ is another step forward for AMD but the 3200+ offers a better price/performance ratio. The Athlon 64 family is still pretty new, and the need to buy a new motherboard may put off some potential upgraders for a while yet. That said, there are bound to be some great Athlon 64 3400+ PC deals from system integrators over the next couple of months. Of course when 64bit Windows rears its head, you can expect to see a big upturn in Athlon 64 sales.
The Athlon 64 3400+ is a step forward for AMD, taking the crown for fastest consumer processor in the process. The asking price is high, but far more reasonable than the FX51 and the P4EE.
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