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AMD Athlon 64 FX-53: sometimes it's not only about the architecture

March 18, 2004



It hasn't been long after AMD announced its first "extreme" processor, Athlon 64 FX-51. And today Athlon 64 FX family was extended with another product, namely Athlon 64 FX-53. Everyone knew in advance what it would be and... turned out to be right: yes, it's the same K8-based chip operating with DDR400 Registered SDRAM, featuring a dual-channel controller and on-chip 1MB L2 cache. The list of differences from Athlon 64 FX-51 includes the only item: the novelty operates at 2400MHz that is 200MHz faster than the predecessor's clock rate.

It's not a secret, we don't think this review is perfect. Pity, but it's a "remake" of the older materials updated with Athlon 64 FX-53 results. Alas, but considering that we received it less than 48 hours ago, we just didn't have time to test it and write a proper article. (Last time we "thanked" someone for such pressing schedule, but it stirred up such ambiguous reactions among readers, so we are not to thank anyone this time...)

From the one hand, we can draw a number of conclusions already now, while from the other... Well, we got a reason to return to this theme again in the future. And now we can offer you photos (I often and often think whether anyone needs them anyway?) and proceed to the only valuable section of this article - to the test results. The selection of competitors and test software this time was obvious and dictated by the time given (see above). We used those CPUs and benchmarks for which we had the large result databases.

Athlon 64 FX-53. The new clock rate, new markings...

Testbed and benchmarks

Testbed

  • Processors:
    • AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 (2400 MHz)
    • AMD Athlon 64 3400+ (2200 MHz)
    • AMD Athlon 64 FX-51 (2200 MHz)
    • Intel Pentium 4 3.4 GHz
    • Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz eXtreme Edition
    • Intel Pentium 4 3.2E GHz (Prescott)
    • Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz
  • Motherboards:
  • Memory:
    • 2x512MB PC3200 DDR SDRAM DIMM TwinMOS (2-2-2-5)
    • 2x512MB PC3200 Registered DDR SDRAM DIMM Corsair (2-2-2-5)
  • Manli ATI Radeon 9800Pro 256MB graphics card
  • Western Digital WD360 (SATA) 10000rpm HDD

OS and drivers

  • Windows XP Professional SP1
  • DirectX 9.0b
  • NVIDIA UDP 3.13
  • VIA Hyperion 4.51
  • VIA SATA Driver 2.10a
  • Intel Chipset Installation Utility 5.0.2.1003
  • Silicon Image Driver 1.1.0.52
  • ATI Catalyst 3.9

Motherboard ABIT KV8-MAX3 ASUS P4C800 Deluxe ASUS SK8N
Links ABIT KV8-MAX3 ASUS P4C800 Deluxe ASUS SK8N
Chipset VIA K8T800 (K8T800 + VT8237) Intel i875 (RG82004MC + FW82801ÅB) NVIDIA nForce 3 Pro 150
CPUs supported Socket 754, AMD Athlon 64 Socket 478, Intel Pentium 4, Intel Celeron Socket 940, AMD Athlon FX
Memory sockets 3 DDR 4 DDR 4 DDR
Expansion slots AGP / 5 PCI AGP Pro / 5 PCI AGP / 5 PCI
I/O ports 1 FDD, 2 PS/2, 3 FireWire 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2, 2 IEEE1394 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2, 2 IEEE1394
USB 4 USB 2.0 + 2 2 USB 2.0 4 USB 2.0 + 2 2 USB 2.0 4 USB 2.0 + 2 headers for 2 USB 2.0
Int. IDE ATA133 + SATA RAID ATA100 + SATA ATA133 + SATA RAID
Ext. IDE / SATA Silicon Image SiI3114CT176 Promise PDC20378 Promise PDC20378
Audio AC'97, Avance Logic ALC658 AC'97, Analog Devices AD1985 AC'97, Avance Logic ALC658
LAN 3COM Marvell 940-MV00 3COM Marvell 940-MV00 10Base-T/100Base-TX + Realtek RTL8110S-32
I/O Winbond W83627HF-AW Winbond W83627THF-A Winbond W83627THF-A
BIOS 4 Mbit Award BIOS v 6.00.PG 4 Mbit AMI BIOS v. 2.51 4 Mbit AMI BIOS v. 2.51
Form-factor, size ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm

Test results

CPU RightMark

This time we decided to change the form of CPU RM results publication. Previously we separated the single-thread and multi-thread performance, but doing this for a multi-thread program doesn't seem "ideologically" right to us, especially in this test mix (instead of a proper examination). So, on all charts below you can see the best result for each processor independently of the amount of threads. But in exchange we could focus on instruction sets more without "inflating" the article. So, the traditionally first chart is the performance of a physical model math solver.

Math Solver

You can easily see that SSE2 instruction set considerably increases the performance of AMD64 processors comparing to the classic x87 FPU. This actually allows them to win. Less noticeable, but still very interesting is the performance drop caused by the transition from SSE2 to FPU that varies from architecture to architecture: AMD64 loses about 23% of performance, while P4/Northwood loses about 42% and P4/Prescott even about 47%!

Render

Rendering makes it right opposite (even twice opposite). First, Pentium 4 are winning, and second, Prescott wins over other Pentium 4s! It perfectly fits for a purely emotional "Pentium 4 essence" label. Very frequently it performs good in exactly those tasks that are favoured by NetBurst (even without any architecture tailoring).

Summary

As usual, the general performance is indicated by the performance of the slowest component (compare hundreds of fps in Math Solving and only tens of them in Render!), so everything's usual here. And even Prescott's top place is not surprising, considering the aforementioned.

Graphics benchmarks

3ds max 5.1 + Brazil r/s

And here the mere clock rate increase resulted in such a considerable effect. It's clear that these applications and test scene don't favour AMD64 architecture, but fighting an enemy with his own weapon does the thing. In its time, Intel compensated architectural drawbacks by megahertz, and today AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 demonstrates the success of such tactics. As a result it occupies the second place not so far from the top.

Lightwave 7.5

The novelty couldn't show the same considerable progress in this test, but it clearly outran Athlon 64 FX-51. Besides, Intel's Prescott couldn't win over Athlon 64 FX-53. But this is the very product it will have to compete with in the nearest future!

Adobe Photoshop 7.0

Here you can see two interesting things at once. The first is rather usual: Athlon 64 FX is favoured by this software very much. It's good that the performance isn't still cropped by any clock-independent limiting factors and the simple scaling produces a significant effect. And the Prescott results leads us to a thought that AMD64 will have to compete with NetBurst incarnation in the future, as Pentium 4 3.2E lags signficantly from both Athlon 64 FX being still better than Northwood-based processors.

Media encoding

DivX

AMD has finally sounded here as well. Strangely enough, the results resemble those of 3ds max and the architectural preferences are rather clear. But the extra 200MHz enable Athlon 64 FX-53 to brute-force its way to the top. And even the placement is the same: Intel is first, but the novelty is the second.

Windows Media Video 9

I guess if there were 4, not 3, AMD processors in this test, the would fourth perform to occupy a place between Pentium 4 3.2 and Pentium 4 3.2 XE :). It was such an alternation. And the main rivals were Intel's new core (with the "old clock rate", so to say) and the new AMD processor (the old core with a new clock rate). Still the winner is Athlon 64 FX.

Mainconcept MPEG Encoder

MPEG2 encoding is perfectly optimized for Hyper-Threading in this software, so AMD has to aces here and the result is rather predictable. But Athlon 64 FX performance scalability impresses anyway. Just visually comparing the bar lengths you can see that the slowest Pentium 4 in this chart will be caught up the at next clock rate increase, while two such increases might even beat the leader. Which is again the Prescott...

Canopus ProCoder

We already know about the preferences of this software, so we can formally rejoice over Athlon 64 FX clock performance scalability.

LAME

Intel is still the leader, but AMD steps forward are respectable. And again the leader is Northwood, while Prescott is so pale...

OGG Encoder

Such a processor mix, on top of which is todays hero, while Prescott is buried. Remembering the aforementioned "Pentium 4 essence" I can add that applications not favoured by NetBurst are even less favoured by its new incarnation.

Archiving

7-zip

And yet again, despite the general loss, Athlon 64 FX's scalability impresses. The clock rate increase produces rather considerable result.

WinRAR

No special comments needed, it's all clear. Previously Intel's extreme was leveled with AMD's analogue, but we still have no Pentium 4 3.4 XE on hands, while Athlon 64 FX-53 is already being tested. The result is obvious.

Games

The general trend is very clear: good scalability of Athlon 64 FX plus 200 MHz clock rate increase allow for all the gold medals.

Conclusion

So, we have just witnessed another ascension to the top. Pleasing, but we remember how many times we celebrated it in the past and think of how many times we'll have to celebrate it in the future. Such a permanent holiday: another top processor from either maker wins over the predecessor. So, having dealt with Champagne, let's try to understand the meaning of Athlon 64 FX-53 release from the angle of both AMD K8, and x86 families evolution (including the clones, etc.)

The first oddity of x86 CPU world (that attracts not much attention for some reason) is that almost all new processors are divided into two categories: innovative and good. This is no mistake: we saw the innovative Pentium II (Slot form-factor and external cache on a daughterboard); the dull and predictable Pentium III (lived a long life and had occupied the performance top for a long time); the innovative Athlon K7 (Slot design and external cache again); the innovative Thunderbird (hot like a furnace and no SSE support); the not innovative Palomino (very commercially successful though); the awfully performing, but extremely innovative Pentium 4 Willamette; the long-living Northwood; AMD64, not impressive at the first glance; and the current Athlon 64 FX-53. It turns out that "dull" solutions sound the loudest, while any innovative products are labelled "mustdie". Well, it's right actually: people like panem et ciroenses and also fps and don't care about anything else.

So, the arrival of Athlon 64 FX-53 seems like a "Northwood era" in the AMD camp. Judging by the time interval between the Athlon 64 FX-51, Athlon 64 3400+ and the todays novelty, the clock rate has been finally put onto the production line. If this is true, AMD enters the period of the dull performance (and clock rate) growth of Athlon 64 / Opteron CPU that is to continue up to the technological and architectural limits. This assumption seems logical, as otherwise Athlon 64 FX-53 should have been released later - AMD64 looks good even without it, so it would be strategically incorrect to ride horses hard without anything in the reserve.

On the other hand, we have Intel with its strongly modified Prescott that suffers lots of urgent problems. If we are right, we shouldn't expect any changes in the nearest months, when AMD, having honed the technology, will rest on the laurels helping its top place with clock rate increases. And Intel will be preparing another "killer CPU" - Tejas - until it's completely ready.

Well, congratulations. Another lap of performance race was naturally completed. Let's ride the next one.

Stanislav Garmatyuk (nawhi@ixbt.com)
Dmitry Mayorov (destrax@ixbt.com)

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