Summary: The .09 micron, Winchester core based Athlon 64 3500+ outperformed the .13 micron, Newcastle core based Athlon 64 3500+ in every area we tested. The Winchester based CPU overclocked higher at its stock voltage, it ran cooler while idling and under load at default and overclocked speeds, and with the .09 micron CPU installed in our test system it drew significantly less power.
It would be unwise to make a blanket statement and declare AMD's transition to a .09 micron manufacturing process an unequivocal success, but they seem to be in a good position based on our initial findings. The Winchester core seems to be a good first step for AMD towards shifting their entire processor line to their .09 micron SOI manufacturing process. Our Winchester based Athlon 64 3500+ had a decent amount of clock speed headroom, and it ran cooler and consumed less power than its .13 micron counterpart. And recent news that AMD has begun to transition the Opteron to .09 micron is also encouraging. AMD's server class CPUs go through an extensive amount of certification testing. So to call some of their .09 micron processors Opterons, those CPUs have passed the certification tests and AMD has confidence in their long-term usability.
AMD still has some work to do to complete the eventual transition of their entire line to .09 micron, however. Even with voltage tweaking, our particular Winchester core based 3500+ couldn't overclock to the same 2.6GHz clock speed as a stock Athlon 64 FX-55. And our FX-55 still had a bit a headroom as it has no problem running at over 2.8GHz with a slight bump in voltage, which was a couple of hundred MHz higher than the .09 micron 3500+ could do. And on top of that the FX-55 is a .13 micron CPU. To build .09 micron processors that'll run as fast as their high-end .13 micron CPUs and have a bit of headroom to spare, AMD will simply need to continue refining their manufacturing process. And AMD seems to have been focused on doing just that. While evaluating the Athlon 64 FX-55 recently, we asked AMD about their use of strained silicon technology with that CPU. AMD stated that it's still actively researching and developing the technique and that the method it used in the manufacture of the Athlon 64 FX-55 was only one manifestation of a series of strain technologies currently in development between AMD and its partners. The company expected the process to be further improved and refined in the coming months and planned to disclose the details of this strain technology jointly with its partners in the future. By combining what they've learned in manufacturing the Winchester core, with techniques still in development, AMD will likely make their eventual transition to .09 micron without hitting some of the speed bumps that Intel has faced with Prescott architecture. AMD's current processor roadmap calls for their entire line, with the exception of some Semprons, to be moved to .09 micron in the first half of 2005.