Benchmark Summary & Conclusion
Benchmark Summary: Clearly the Athlon 64 FX-55, with its higher clock speed and 1MB of L2 cache, was faster than any of the other AMD processors we tested, so we'll focus on its performance when compared to the Intel-based systems in this summary. When compared to the Intel Pentium 4 560 and 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, the Athlon 64 FX-55 won eight of 13 benchmarks. It was strongest in the game tests and in the real-world tests. The Pentium 4 processors did best in a few of the synthetic benchmarks and in the 3D rendering benchmarks. The encoding tests were split.
The Athlon 64 4000+ also performed very well, as it should, considering it's essentially an FX-53, which was AMD's flagship desktop processor for the last few months. Disregarding the FX-55 results, the Athlon 64 4000+ won six of 13 tests when compared to the Intel-based systems.
AMD is in a good position with the 2004 holiday buying season approaching. Looking at the benchmark scores, we suspect that the majority of our audience will come to the same conclusion as we have: The Athlon 64 FX-55 is simply the fastest x86 processor currently available. Unless you spend half of your day encoding video (with heavy SSE optimizations in your encoder), the Athlon 64 FX-55 offers the best performance of any other desktop processor. The Athlon 64 4000+ is also an extremely fast processor, and with a little overclocking, it could reach the same performance levels as the FX-55.
AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 processor $827 each (PIB)
AMD Athlon 64 4000+ processor $729 each (PIB)
In lots of 1000, AMD is pricing the Athlon 64 FX-55 at $827 each and the 4000+ at $729 each. These processors are certainly not cheap, but when compared to Intel's Extreme Edition processors, they are definitely the better deal. The lowest price we found for a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor was $990, and don't forget that you'd also need to shell out a few extra bucks for fast DDR2 memory to achieve the performance levels we did here.
For those who crave this level of performance but can't afford the investment, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. If the preliminary information we have is correct, Intel should be releasing a new high-end CPU this quarter that's based on a new version of the Prescott core, but with more cache, a faster bus, and at a higher clock speed than anything in its current repertoire. This CPU also uses Intel's 0.09-micron manufacturing process, which should make it much less expensive to produce than the current Gallatin core-based Extreme Edition processors. Hopefully, this CPU won't carry as lofty a price tag as current Extreme Edition processors and will be more competitive performance wise. If so, we may find AMD and Intel in a price war at the high end. Producing processors should also get cheaper for AMD as the company transitions all of its processors to its 0.09-micron manufacturing process in the coming months. So, keep your fingers crossed.
Regardless of what happens in the immediate future, AMD is in a good position today. The K8 architecture has scaled nicely in 2004, and now that AMD is using strained SOI, it appears the company still has some headroom to spare should it need to release one more speed grade before transitioning to its 0.09-micron process and taking the K8 past the 3GHz mark.