The launch of AMDâ€™s Sempron 3400+ will come as no great surprise to some with many rumours floating around the web about its imminent launch. When it comes to budget processors AMD doesnâ€™t normally make big announcements, such as the 3300+ which has been available for some time to system integrators. So those whoâ€™ve not kept up to date with the latest processor developments might wonder what the all the fuss is about.
But this time, thereâ€™s a bit more to it than just a clock speed or cache increase; the 3400+ Sempron has been spruced up with some extra functionality. The 3400+ has a 2GHz core and 256kb of L2 cache memory, half of that of an Athlon 64. The core has been shrunk and itâ€™s now using 90nm technology. But what really matters is that the new Sempron core now supports 64-bit and SSE3. Even more importantly the memory controller has been tweaked, though in fact this was first done on the 3300+. According to AMD, the memory controller is more efficient, the ability to use memory modules of different sizes has been added and if you populate all the memory slots with double sided modules, the PC2700 speed limitation has been removed.
Up to now, AMD had reserved 64-bit support for the Athlon 64, but with Intel introducing 64-bit support to its Celeron range, AMD had little choice but to follow suit. SSE3 has been inherited from the latest generation of Athlon 64s making the latest generation of Semprons more like the Athlon 64s than ever before.
The downside is that AMD has not moved the Sempron to Socket-939, so if youâ€™re interested in getting the new 3400+ youâ€™ll have to stick with a Socket-754 board and a pretty dead end upgrade path. All the features of the 3400+ will eventually filter down through the various speed grades, although I would imagine that youâ€™ll have to wait for old stock to be sold out before they become available. In the mean time all retail 64-bit enabled Semprons will have clearly labelled boxes, but if youâ€™re looking at getting an OEM chip you have to keep an eye of for the product number; it should end with BO or BX for it to be a 64-bit enabled CPU.
According to AMD the Sempron processor speed ratings are not equivalent to that of Athlon 64 although it hasnâ€™t been specific in terms of exactly how they differ. Rather confusingly, a 3400+ Sempron is not comparable to a 3400+ Athlon 64; it is more like a 3000+ which is also clocked at 2GHz but with a larger 512kb cache. Iâ€™m not certain that 256kb of cache will make that much of a difference and as you will see from the test results the Sempron 3400+ put in some quite impressive numbers.