High-Tech Hot Potato: AMD, Asus Clam Up On AM3 Compatibility Questions

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News Posted: Sun, Mar 27 2011 3:37 PM
Two weeks ago, we discussed Asus' claim that certain AM3 motherboards would function properly when paired with AM3+ processors. We've since spoken with both companies and have a (slightly) clearer idea of what to expect. Asus' announcement is not, in any way, a refutation of AMD's previous comments on Bulldozer support. According to Sunnyvale, Bulldozer will only be supported on AM3+ motherboards.

AMD directed all other questions to Asus while Asus, once we spoke with them, informed us that they were under NDA not to discuss any details of their previous announcement. We were, however, able to learn a few additional tidbits of information. Previously, we noted that AMD could theoretically transfer Phenom II CPUs to AM3+. It's still unclear why Asus didn't simply refer to 'Bulldozer' in its previous announcement, but there's little chance it was referring to a current product on an AM3+ platform.


It looks like the Crosshair IV Extreme will support AM3+ products, if only unofficially

We previously speculated that AM3 and AM3+ CPUs might be physically different in a way that would prevent the latter from plugging into the former socket. This isn't the case--while the socket differences we noted in our previous article exist, they don't appear to define compatibility.

The situation appears to be as follows:  Some AM3 motherboards, including all of the boards Asus lists as compatible, will support a drop-in Bulldozer upgrade once the BIOS is properly flashed. The nature and degree of said support is unknown. Those who plug an AM3+ CPU into an AM3 board will lose certain features. These are almost certain to be related to power conservation or clock gating; high-speed enthusiasts might never notice the difference.

It may not be a great idea to bet on AM3+ CPU support if you already have an AM3 motherboard. One thing AMD did point out is that it has no control over what various vendors do or do not cover. Even when AMD officially declared that Phenom II processors would be drop-in replacements for original Phenoms, some motherboard vendors neglected to provide BIOS updates. The state of support in an unofficial upgrade situation could well be more tenuous.

In this case, high-quality AM3 boards based on older chipsets may still be able to get in on the action. Asus' chipset comments in its original press release indicate that there's nothing to prevent older chipsets from functioning with a Bulldozer core as opposed to a Phenom II. Again, we'll have to wait and see; motherboard manufacturers aren't falling all over themselves to announce their own boards are just as compatible as Asus'.

Enthusiasts who want a board that they absolutely know will support Bulldozer flawlessly will need to pony up for an AM3+ products. Everyone else will have to wait and see how the dice fall. With a Crosshair IV Extreme already in hand, we plan to test the upgrade theory once Bulldozer products launch and are reviewed on their intended AM3+ platforms. 
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3vi1 replied on Sun, Mar 27 2011 6:50 PM

>> Those who plug an AM3+ CPU into an AM3 board will lose certain features.

Yikes. Good to know.

Maybe it's just me, but there never really seems to be any practicality to upgrading your CPU and motherboard separately, eh? Even if not for issues like this, it never ends up cost-effective.

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Is The Crosshair IV Extreme not selling to well that Asus is trying to push AM3+ processors to work on that particular motherboard. .. Wouldn't it be more convenient for Asus to have people dish out some mula for their new AM3+ motherboards instead of recycling their old ones??...but then again it all falls back to The Extreme not selling and there might be thousands and thousands of that model sitting in storage

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OSunday replied on Sun, Mar 27 2011 7:58 PM

The never ending cycle of buying some good technology and finding out all the $$$ you spent is for naught because with a year something better came out... :(

That is the computer enthusiast circle of life.

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It's not a cheap hobby, which sux cuz I'm a cheap skate. :P

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Inspector replied on Sun, Mar 27 2011 11:54 PM

Well 3vi1, this is people like me don't have money or saving potentials xD. so we must use what money we have at hand and that usually dosn't add up to be enough for a new board and cpu :).

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Super Dave replied on Mon, Mar 28 2011 12:00 AM

recoveringknowitall:

It's not a cheap hobby, which sux cuz I'm a cheap skate. :P

I'm even cheaper because I buy recoveringknowitall's used hardware.

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AMD has been pretty friendly with reusable boards having compatiability for different processors

Intel, well, they have been forcing the customer to buy new motherboards for every new CPU....jeeez, how long now?

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omegadraco replied on Mon, Mar 28 2011 11:23 AM

It sounds to me like ASUS is trying to be consumer friendly since you pay enough for their boards up front they will not be losing out by providing support for this. Go ASUS!

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Joel H replied on Mon, Mar 28 2011 11:32 AM

Inspector,

Believe me when I say I sympathize with your situation and limited cash flow. If you aren't gaming, however, CPUs and boards have a very long lifespan these days. Even components from the Athlon 64 X2 / early Core 2 era work very well in systems where you don't need much (but *do* require a reasonable degree of performance).

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Mar 28 2011 11:59 AM

That is a very valid point Joel H. Equipment today is generally over capable to the software accept in very rare cases which as you mention are generally gaming related. Of course science and some design/accounting focuses as well, but generally it is pretty rare for software today to require or even really need the latest and greatest unless it is a game with high graphics requirements or capabilities. In many way's even that is not entirely true (IE: 5870-6870/ 480-580) with last generation in some cases being more powerful than current. Either way I am excited to see what Bulldozer brings to the table.

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