Inspecting the Hardware
The first, and for now only, motherboard available for the QuadFX platform is the Asus L1N64-SLI WS. AMD has informed us that other motherboard partners are looking to introduce QuadFX motherboards some time before the end of this year, or more likely in the first half of 2007.
As its name implies, the Asus L1N64-SLI WS is a workstation class motherboard, but unlike many other boards in this class, it is outfitted with a host of features and options targeted squarely at hardcore power users and enthusiasts. Of course the board has dual CPU sockets and four DIMM slots; two per CPU. It is also equipped with four physical PCI Express X16 slots (two with x16 and two with x8 electrical connections), single standard PCI and PCI Express x1 slots, 12x SATA ports, ADI SoundMax HD audio, and dual gigabit LAN ports. Although the nForce 680a SLI chipset has four Ethernet MACs, only two are used on this board.
The Asus L1N64-SLI WS' BIOS is also relatively well equipped. Unlike most other dual-socket, workstation class motherboards, the L1N64-SLI WS has a full compliment of overclocking and tweaking tools. All of the board's integrated peripherals can be enabled or disabled from within the BIOS, and a number of voltages and frequencies can be tweaked as well. All of the HyperTransport link frequencies can be altered independently, as can the PCI Express frequency, and the HT reference clock that determines the ultimate CPU clock speed. Memory, chipset, and processor voltages can also be manipulated, and memory timings can be tweaked on a per CPU basis.
With a motherboard this complex, you'd expect it to have a relatively cramped layout, and you'd be right. The heatsinks and heatpipes mounted to the voltage regulation modules and chipset are positioned in such a way that they won't interfere with any expansion cards, but because the board has two CPU sockets, and two banks of DIMM slots, in addition to a number of other integrated peripherals, it's a pretty tight fit once cables are connected and expansion cards are installed.
If you flipped through the pictures of the motherboard above, you probably noticed that the QuadFX platform utilizes a different CPU socket than previous desktop Athlon 64 processors. The FX-70 series of processors for the QuadFX platform use AMD's 1207-pin Socket F platform, similar to the one used on current high-end Opterons. The move the Socket F for QuadFX was necessary because the standard AM2 desktop platform doesn't have the pin-count accommodations for the multiple HyperTransport links that reside between the processors and chipset.
The FX-70 series of processors utilizes LGA processor packaging, which moves the pins off the processor itself to the CPU socket, similar to Intel's LGA 775 platform - except with many more pins. The FX-74 pictured here is a dual-core processor with a default clock frequency of 3.0GHz (15x200MHz). The FX-72 runs at 2.8GHz, and the FX-70 at 2.6GHz. These processors will not be sold individually at first, but rather will be sold in pairs.