The Athlon 64 FX, coupled with an nForce3 150PRO motherboard, finally performs to the level where I want a production/development computer to perform. Things can only get better when the 64-bit Windows arrives.
Every 10-14 months, I perform a major upgrade to my main computer. When I say main, I mean that it is the one I use for working on the website, doing my accounting, word processing, e-mail, browsing and, most importantly, gaming. So I usually try to get as high of tech as I can afford.
Many of todays high-end machines are powerful enough to finally let me do what I have always wanted to be able to do. You may ask what is that? Its actually what a lot of people appreciate and dont often recognize good multitasking capabilities. It is the fact that I can leave my e-mail application and a couple browser windows open and still go play a game with great performance. Up until the recent products like AMD’s 64-bit processors and Intels HyperThreading capable P4s to a lesser degree, a user had to rely on a dual-CPU setup for a more fluent multitasking environment. (Dont believe me? Go visit our friends at 2CPU.com .)
It is something to note since this is a real-world test on my machine. I started the test in the state it what is in and did not reboot once during all the testing. Also this is an install of Windows XP that is 1 week old but does have all my utilities, ICQ, Norton Antivirus and so on loaded. Actually, on average, 48 processes are running during all this testing.
To start off, I had to pick a platform for this new machine. Well, anyone that knows me at all could have figured that I would choose NVIDIAs nForce3 150PRO for the chipset.
For more information on the nForce3 150 chipset, see our recent NF3 reviews:
New System Specifications
So with that said, here is the specifications of the machine I built:
|Case:||Coolermaster Wave Master Case, Antec SL 400Watt|
|CPU:||AMD Athlon 64 FX-51|
|Motherboard:||Asus SK8N nForce 3|
|Memory:||2x Corsair TWINX1024RE-3200LL (Total System RAM 2GB)|
|Video Card:||NVIDIA 5950U Reference Board|
|Audio:||Creative Labs Audigy 2 ZS|
|Hard Drives:||2x WD 36GB Raptors 10,000RPM SATA (RAID 0 for 72GB Boot Drive)|
|2x Maxtor DiamondMax 9 200GB PATA (RAID 1)|
|DVD Reader:||Toshiba DVD SD-M1712|
|DVD Writer:||Sony DVD RW DRI-500A|
|Floppy:||Sony 3.5 Floppy|
|OS:||Windows XP Professional SP1A|
|Miscellaneous:||Klipsch 5.1 ProMedia|
|Logitech Cordless Duo|
|Samsung 957MB 19 CRT|
If you have been reading Maximum PC or some of the other PC/gaming magazines, you can see this fits right in with their award winning machines.
But today we are going to take a look at what a real-world production/development machine can do and still whip out some very impressive benchmarks in synthetic benchmarks and games. Im comparing my new Athlon 64 FX-51 to the current AMD 64 3200+ CPUs and motherboards that Shane is using.
Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX comparison
But, before we look at the benchmarks, let’s take a quick look at AMDs Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX processors. Both processors have a lot in common:
32-bit code: Both are fully compatible with existing 32-bit code to ensure backwards compatability with existing (and future) software written for 32-bit hardware and software architecture. This includes SSE, SSE2, MMX, 3DNow! technology and legacy x86 instruction support.
64-bit technology: Both are designed to handle 64-bit instruction sets by AMDs AMD64 technology in the sixteen 64-bit integer registers, 48-bit virtual addresses, 40-bit physical addresses, and sixteen 128-bit SSE/SSE2 registers.
Miscellaneous: Both include machine check (ECC) architecture, power management/ACPI functionality, and, of course, Hypertransport bus support.
Where they differ is the critical point:
Cache: The Athlon 64 includes 2-way, 64 Kbyte L1 data and instruction caches. The Athlon 64s L2 cache is available in 256-KB, 512-KB, and 1024KB. AMDs FX line-up goes a step further. For the FX, the L1 cache remains unchanged from the Athlon 64, but the L2 only comes in the 1024-KB flavor. This may be considered a minor point since the Athlon 64 can also be had in the 1MB capacity, and it appears that the 1MB version is the most common on the market.
Integrated Memory Controller: The Athlon 64 features a 72-bit DDR SDRAM memory controller (64-bits + 16 bits ECC). The FX gains a significant boost, housing a 144-bit DDR SDRAM controller (128-bits + 16-bits ECC).
Packaging: The Athlon 64 FX, with its fatter memory pipeline, comes in a larger Pin Grid Array package than the Athlon 64. The new FX is in 940-pin microPGA package while the Athlon 64 comes in a 754-pin microPGA package.
On to the testing… For the testing, I had Outlook and two Internet Explorer sessions open. We will be comparing my scores against two Athlon 64 3200+ based systems that Shane tested earlier this month. Please note that the Athlon 64 FX has a slight MHz lead (200MHz) over the Athlon 64 3200+ that Shane is using, but Shane wasnt letting his rig run other applications during the benchmarking process.
Shane’s pertinent system specifications:
|CPU:||AMD Athlon 64 3200+|
|Motherboards:||Chaintech ZNF3-150 Zenith (nForce3)|
|MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R (VIA K8T800)|
|Memory:||2 x 256MB XMS3500 Corsair DDR|
|Video Card:||Leadtek GeForce FX 5950 Ultra|
|Hard Drive:||Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 200GB 8MB Buffer|
|OS:||Windows XP Professional SP1|
PC Mark 2002
SiSoft Sandra 2004 CPU
Sisoft Sandra CPU Multimedia
SiSoft Sandra 2004 Memory Bandwidth
Unreal Tournament 2003 – Inferno
Unreal Tournament 2003 – Antalus
In general, we can see the 64 FX-51 system is faster than the 64 3200+ systems we have tested. The biggest boosts that the FX gives, and not surpisingly so, are in the general system benchmarks, especially the memory benchmarks where the FXs fat memory pipe is getting used. The gaming benchmarks are largely governed by the video card, as we all know. The FX shows slight improvements over the 64 3200+, which can be attributed to general system superiority (fatter memory pipe and memory access and timing differences, slightly higher clock speed, etc.).
Shortly, we will also have a review up of our Athlon 64 3400+, and it will be compared against this Athlon 64 FX system, which should make for a very good comparison.
In applications that are memory bandwidth intensive, the 64 FX-51 is the CPU to have. I think the real test will come once we see the 64-bit Windows XP from Microsoft. Until then, the 64 FX-51 and soon to be released FX-53 are probably still too high in price for the everyday user. But the power user who needs every ounce of performance out of his/her computer is sure to find the nForce3 and FX CPU a dream machine to have.
I know I am finally happy to have a real world system that even beats many clean-installed systems in testing. Keep an eye out for more testing with this system with new video cards coming out soon and the upcoming Windows XP for the AMD 64.