Questions of Compatibility: AMD, AM3, and Bulldozer - HotHardware

Questions of Compatibility: AMD, AM3, and Bulldozer

12 thumbs up
It's been several weeks since Asus announced that certain socket AM3 motherboards would support AMD's upcoming Bulldozer processors. Since then, we've turned up additional rumors on the nature of such support. MSI has also announced its own plans to retrofit some existing AM3 boards with Bulldozer compatibility. What follows is the general shape of the situation as we currently understand it.

Will AMD Officially Support Bulldozer On The AM3 Platform?

No. The recent announcements from Asus and MSI make it clear that some AM3 boards will function with a Bulldozer-class processor installed. With that said, AMD originally justified moving from AM3 to AM3+ because not doing so would prevent certain Bulldozer features from functioning. AMD has not specified which features are affected yet; it's our belief, based on conversations with people in the know, that Bulldozer's advanced power management and clock gating capabilities require an AM3+ socket.


Gigabyte has also announced a new line 16 "Black Socket" boards that are AM3+ ready

What's The Difference Between Unofficial and Official Support?
Quite a bit. For one thing, "unsupported" is almost always code for "voids your warranty." Official support doesn't automatically translate into practical compatibility. AMD has officially supported two separate product introductions in recent history. First, all AM2 boards that supported Phenom officially supported Phenom II. Second, all AM2+ boards officially supported AM3 processors. In both cases, actual compatibility implementation was left in the hands of the motherboard manufacturers.

There are occasionally cases where neither official support nor proper BIOS implementation is sufficient. AMD's 780G chipset, which launched to considerable acclaim, was capable of supporting AMD's entire range of processors. It soon became apparent, however, that a number of mATX 780G  boards were incapable of handling AMD's 125W Phenom processors. Well-built boards using high-quality components had no problems. The rest were quickly restricted to 95W TDPs or less.


Asus' Crosshair IV actually *will* support Bulldozer. It's a fact that could significantly improve the board's marketability—if we knew more about the nature of that support.

What Have Asus / AMD Said?

AMD has officially said that it will support Bulldozer with the Socket AM3+ infrastructure. Questions regarding Bulldozer and AM3 support should therefore be directed to the motherboard manufacturers in question*. We attempted to talk to Asus, but were told that the company will no longer be talking publicly about AM3/Bulldozer support, at the request of AMD. Thus, Asus was unable to talk to us about the specifics of its own product based on an announcement it had already made.

What's The Bottom Line?
Some AM3 boards will support Bulldozer processors. The characteristics of that support and the degree to which performance, power consumption, and thermals will be affected is unknown. We generally expect that more expensive, enthusiast-class boards will offer a greater degree of support than bargain-basement models. Similarly, companies are more likely to update newer, better, boards than older ones.

The rumor mill indicates that multiple AMD chipsets will be capable of supporting Bulldozer. There's scant info on just how much various companies will implement support on older boards. Expect actual compatibility to vary considerably. The nature of this situation makes it very likely that some boards that should support Bulldozer, won't. Others may not be able to deliver power adequately given the CPU's different requirements.

The best thing to do is wait and see. We'll have to wait for launch to see what disparities exist between AM3 and AM3+ features and performance. We expect other motherboard manufacturers will make their own announcements about AM3 compatibility in the weeks ahead, but in lieu of the unofficial nature of support, we recommend waiting as opposed to buying a board now with a plan to drop an AM3+ processor in it.

*At the time this article was written, only Asus had announced that Bulldozer would be supported on AM3.
Multiple vendors have since made similar statements.
 

Article Index:

Prev 1 2 3 Next
0
+ -

You know AMD was and is a lot better than Intel at phasing out old designs. Intel has a new socket every few months since 775 bit the dust while AMD keeps some backward compatibility in its chip-sets.

0
+ -

That's not true. Granted, Intel's chipset launch schedules and compatibility shifts *can* be very frustrating, but the Intel 945G (released in 2005) supported everything up through Core 2 Duo. Through that time period--granted, a time period when they were grabbing back lost market share from AMD--Intel adopted a very liberal (for them) upgrade policy.

With Nehalem things have gone back the old way. There's no arguing that AMD's long-term historical trend is much better than Intel's in such matters, but keep in mind that upgrading one's CPU is less important now than it once was. It's always possible for bottlenecks to appear in certain games, and professionals certainly benefit from keeping up with CPU trends, but I used a quad-core Q6600 for over three years before finally upgrading to Core i7. The difference--outside of gaming--has been pretty minimal. Generally speaking, most users would, I think, notice an SSD vs. a hard drive more than a new chip vs. one 3-4 years old.

That's somewhat beside the point. I don't think Asus, Gigabyte, or MSI would claim Bulldozer support if they couldn't offer it. We just don't know what the tradeoffs will be, yet. When I talked about warranty voiding issues, I was referring to the AMD side. It would be unusual for the mobo manufacturers to announce official support on *their* end, then void board warranties. That doesn't make the situation sunshine and roses, but there is (as far as we know) a degree of warranty coverage still remaining.

0
+ -

Its so evident that these company have been losing money on the AMD side. Bottom line, get an AM3+ motherboard if you happen to invest in Bulldozer when the time arrives , save the trouble and hassle.

I totally knew something was up when I first read about this.

0
+ -

Thats very true Marco but as they said they do not support it, and as stated in the article that basically means you void your warranty, well if you mess around with hardware like many of us do you may be used to it, it still royally sucks when you try to return something and the OEM say'd sorry you voided the warranty by using it. That would also mean you would probably loose a processor and MB as well as maybe the memory if it sparks hard! I have done it before and luckily NEWEGG is awesome on support and replaced it as soon as it was mailed (I was oc'n one of the original 64's or an X2 processor I can't remember. Believe it or not the CPU was fine, but that MB was gone and if I remember right (this was 9 years ago I beleive) one of the memory sticks of a DDR 400 pair!

0
+ -

@rapid well said... But it is nice to see that these manufacturers are continuing to support their product lines and not just dropping them and leaving them to rot.

0
+ -

 

I think I'll take Joel, Rapid, and Neil's advice on this one, and wait and see. I'm not going to waste my time and money fooling around trying to take the easy way out.

If I'm going to spend the money on a Bulldozer cpu, then I'm going to get a board that has the proper socket and chipset on it.

Understand that I'm not in any way trying to put anyone else down for doing so, but going with an unsupported board is beyond my comfort level.

LOL. Besides, I really don't have a choice as I'm still rocking a Athlon 64 4000+ Socket 939.Embarrassed

0
+ -

I learned the hard way on this matter. I had an Asus P5B Deluxe and upgraded to a Q9550 with a "beta" bios thinking I was saving money. It worked well for a few months but boy did I get bit. Long story short as I moved for college and attempted to fire my machine up the machine would not post no matter what I tried.

Moral of the story AMD has been good to you all as far as compatibility is concerned don't push your luck. It's time to upgrade. It's not worth the risk IMO.

0
+ -

Thats very true omegadraco as far as it goes AMD has generally been one of the best for support as well as for carrying new CPU's to existing chip sockets as well.

0
+ -

The wait is on! time is a pain isn't it? :D

0
+ -

 

Very good for graphic

Prev 1 2 3 Next
Login or Register to Comment
Post a Comment
Username:   Password: