Introduction & Specifications
About a month after Intel officially unveiled their flagship Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor, the crown jewel of their initial dual-core Pentium D processor line-up, AMD revealed their inaugural assortment of dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors, which included the current flagship Athlon 64 X2 4800+. After assessing the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ processor's performance with a variety of applications, we found it to be an extremely powerful processor, that excelled at many tasks. And we were also impressed that AMD was able to deliver a high-end dual-core processor that worked with most of the existing enthusiast-class socket 939 motherboards available, after nothing more than a simple BIOS update.
The Athlon 64 X2 4800+, and the 4600+, 4400+, and 4200+ announced that day were on some level the antithesis of Intel's dual-core offerings. Whereas Intel's dual-core processors required an additional purchase of a motherboard based on a compatible chipset that could handle the increased power requirements of the new CPUs, and perhaps new DDR2 RAM, AMD's dual-core processors just worked with the existing platform and had a max thermal power only slightly higher than the single-core Athlon 64 FX-55. One area where Intel did have a marked advantage over AMD, however, was price. The Pentium Extreme Edition 840 and Athlon 64 X2 4800+ were priced similarly at over $1000 a piece, but Intel's fastest Pentium D was priced about the same as AMD's "slowest" Athlon 64 X2 at about $550, and low-end Pentium Ds were available for about $250.
AMD's dual-core processors were undeniably desirable, but with a minimum cost higher than some complete entry-level PCs, justifying the purchase of one of these processors would be difficult for many enthusiasts. Today though, AMD is taking the wraps off of a brand new Athlon 64 X2 processor, that's priced well below their existing offerings, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+.
We've put together a simple chart for you all, comparing the main features of the new Athlon 64 X2 3800+ to another AMD dual-core processor, Athlon 64 X2 4800+, and the last two single-core Athlon 64 FX processors, the FX-55 (.13 micron) and FX-57 (.09 micron).
If you look closely at the chart above, you'll notice that the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 3800+ differs from the dual-core Athlon 64 4800+ in a number of ways, other than just its clock speed (2.0GHz vs. 2.4GHz). First off, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ has half of the amount of L2 cache as the 4800+ (but the same amount as the 4600+ and 4200+, not listed here). The Athlon 64 X2 3800+, however, is also based on a completely new core. It's not just a 2MB (1MB x 2) core, binned with less cache. The Athlon 64 X2 3800+ has a smaller die, that was intentionally built with 512KB of L2 cache per core, for a total of 1MB of L2 cache. And as such, it's comprised of fewer transistors and has a die size that's significantly smaller than previous Athlon 64 X2 processors. This in-turn makes the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ less expensive to produce overall, because AMD can yield more dice per wafer at the fab. This new core also has a much lower max thermal power than previous Athlon 64 X2 processors (89 watts vs. 110 watts), so its total power consumption and thermal output will be lower than the initial batch of Athlon 64 X2 processors as well.