AMD's Athlon 64 FX-51

AMD's Athlon 64 FX51 - Page 2

The Athlon 64 FX-51 Processor
AMD Drops the Hammer, On Your Desktop!

By, Marco Chiappetta
And Dave Altavilla
September 23, 2003


Our Test System's Major Components
An nForce 3 with 1GB of RAM...







To test the Athlon 64 FX-51, we used Asus' nForce 3 150 Pro powered SK8N motherboard, with 1GB (2x512MB) of PC3200 registered DDR DRAM equipped with 5ns Infineon chips.  Pushing the pixels was a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 Ultra.  We would have liked to have tested the Athlon 64 FX-51 with an ATi based video card, but we wanted to use the same hardware with both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows and NVIDIA had 64-bit video drivers ready at the time of testing.  The heat-sink we used with the FX-51 was a large, aluminum and copper hybrid built by Ajigo.  It did a very good job keeping our Athlon 64 FX-51 cool.  After extended benchmarking sessions, the processor's core temperature hovered in the 35° - 40°C range.

There are also some interesting things to note with regards the Athlon 64 FX-51's 940-pin socket and heat-sink mounting scheme.  AMD has come up with a very easy to use, secure mount that makes removing or installing a heat-sink a breeze.  Thanks to the Athlon 64's integrated heat spreader and this new retention mechanism, cracked Athlon cores will be a thing of the past!  There are only two large metal clips needed to secure the heat-sink into the large, P4-like bracket.  Once the clips are fastened, another plastic retention clip swings around to further secure the heat-sink in place.  We found working with this mechanism completely painless.

NVIDIA's nForce3 Line of Chipsets
Building on the Success of the nForce2

With the success of the nForce 2 chipset for the Athlon XP, it should come as no surprise that NVIDIA has a chipset ready for the Athlon 64.  In fact, the nForce 3 has been ready since the Opteron was originally released back in April.  Unlike the nForce 2, which consists of a "traditional" Northbridge and Southbridge combination, the nForce 3 is a single chip solution.  With the memory controller transplanted onto the processor's die, all NVIDIA had to do to was integrate their IDE, Ethernet, AGP, USB and sound controllers onto a single chip to produce the nForce 3.  And due to nForce 3's single chip nature, it is inherently a "low latency" solution, because there is no external communication between two separate chips.  The nForce 3 150 Pro, which happens to be the chipset powering the Asus SK8N motherboard we tested with the Athlon 64 FX-51, features 10/100 Ethernet, AGP 8X support, three ATA-133 channels and AC'97 audio functionality.  Unfortunately, the nForce 2's excellent audio processing unit did not make it into the nForce 3.  The nForce 3 doesn't feature any integrated graphics either, but considering the target audience (enthusiasts / "prosumers"), that's probably not a concern.  The Athlon 64 FX-51 and Opteron versions of the nForce 3 150 have the "Pro" moniker, while the 754-pin Athlon 64 chipsets are dubbed the nForce 3 150.  The nForce 3 Go should also be available soon to compliment the mobile Athlon 64s also being introduced today. 

NVIDIA will soon be releasing a few additions to the nForce 3 lineup as well.  The nForce 3 250 and 250Gb, have all of the features of the nForce 3 150 with a few notable additions.  With the nForce 3 250, NVIDIA will also be bringing 4 port SATA, 8 USB ports and NVIDIA RAID capabilities to the chipset.  The nForce 3 250Gb offers all of these features plus Gigabit Ethernet support, courtesy of a high speed NVIDIA designed controller with an HT interface.  Since a high-speed HyperTransport link to the CPU and memory offers up to 3.6GB/s of bandwidth, Gigabit transfers will not be limited by available PCI bandwidth, like most add-in cards. NVIDIA claims the nForce 3's Gigabit Ethernet can operate at 256MB/sec (simultaneous transmit and receive streams at 128MB/sec each).

NVIDIA will also be introducing their new "Forceware Platform Software" suite.  The Forceware Platform software, consists of not only the Unified Driver Architecture NVIDIA pioneered, but RAID Management Software, System Utilities and new sound mixer.  Each of these tools offers some useful features like:

  • Full Support for RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD
  • RAID across SATA and PATA drives
  • On-the-fly RAID Array Rebuilds
  • Spare Disk Allocation
NVIDIA System Utility:
  • System monitoring
  • On-the-fly tweaking for optimum performance
  • Save and share configuration profiles
  • No need to modify BIOS
  • Quickly configures speaker modes, environments, and premix levels
  • Easy step-by-step wizard simplifies speaker setup
    Adjust volumes, gains, and mutes for all inputs and outputs
  • Places all audio information and controls in one central application
  • Supports all nForce MCPs
VIA's K8T800 Chipset
Their Next-Gen 64-bit Compatible Platform
VIA Technologies has also entered the Athlon 64 chipset fray with their K8T800.  They too have already introduced their chipset, because it supports the Opteron as well as the Athlon 64s.  The K8T800 is similar to most other VIA chipsets in that it is a more traditional dual-chip solution with a Northbridge and Southbridge.  The VT8237 Southbridge incorporates a host of features like 8 USB 2.0 ports, VIA Six-TRAC AC'97 Audio, 8X AGP and 10/100 Ethernet, plus ATA-133 and native SATA functionality (with RAID).  The Northbridge and Southbridge interface via an 8X V-Link connection that offers up to 533MB/s of bandwidth, but the Northbridge and CPU interface via a high-speed 16-bit/800MHz (1600MHz DDR) HyperTransport link.  VIA is marketing the 800MHz HyperTransport link as "Hyper8" technology, providing up to 6.4GB/s of bandwidth between the processor and motherboard chipset.  VIA is focusing on this feature because they are the first company to offer a full speed HyperTransport link in their chipset.  The nForce 3 powered SK8N we tested with had a 600MHz HyperTransport link, so expect boards based on the K8T800 to prominently boast the Hyper8 feature!

VIA and NVIDIA won't be the only two companies making HyperTransport enabled chipsets for the Athlon 64s and Opterons however.  AMD themselves developed the AMD8000 series of chipsets, but don't expect to see it used on anything other than enterprise class hardware.  Silicon Integrated System (SiS) and Acer Laboratories Inc. (ALi) have also announced chipsets for the Athlon 64s and Opteron.  The specifications for SiS' 755 chipset read much like the VIA K8T800, but the 755 features a higher bandwidth (1GB/s) link between the Northbridge and Southbridge.  ALi's M1687 also offers features similar to the K8T800.  An overview of the M1687 is available here.

Windows XP 64-Bit Edition

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