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AM2 Close Up

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With the recent launch of nForce 5, I briefly scratched the surface of AM2 but didn’t go in to too much detail, with the promise of another article. No sooner than I could say “Hey Ho, Peter Quince”, it was written.

As already mentioned in the previous piece, the major difference between Socket 939 and AM2 is the move away from DDR memory towards DDR2. As shown in our gaming benchmarks, this move has given rise to an average of 6-10 per cent improvement in performance depending on the memory frequency and latency.

Because AMD’s memory controller is integrated in the CPU die, in theory all previous chipsets that were used for Socket 939 or 754 should still work thanks to the wonder that is HyperTransport. In theory, this should also mean a very quick roll out of AM2 compatible motherboards. While I was at CeBIT this year, I did see quite a number of AM2 motherboards before the processor was even launched – so it seems that both of these theories play out in practice.

However, nVidia felt the platform change was a good excuse to update an already leading chipset, and why not. Despite this new chipset, we’ve already got several nForce 5 based motherboards in for testing and they seem to be behaving like final retail products.

ATI managed to get a beta RD580 motherboard to us, also using its long awaited SB600 South Bridge. We had some big issues getting this working, but more on that later. Most surprising is that we haven’t seen any final production ATI boards available yet.
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Above we see the X2 5000+. We actually used the FX62 for our testing, which is partly why we took photos of this instead, as we were busy testing with it. But apart from the letters stamped into the heat spreader, it is identical in every way.

Anyone who has built a Socket 939 machine will definitely be noticing the similarity between the two. This chip actually has 940 pins, like the older Opteron and FX-51 processors, but with a slightly different pin-out. It is not backwards compatible with any previous motherboards and this pin layout difference ensures that no one tries to find that out the hard way.

The FX62 we used clocks in at 2.8GHz with 1MB of Level 2 Cache per core and is still built on a 90nm manufacturing process. One added feature is that of Virtualization, which will play a big role in servers and increasingly I think in desktops too. The idea of running Windows and Linux side by side is as exciting to me as it is for a lot of you.

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