AMD's Athlon 64 FX-53

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AMD's Athlon 64 FX-53
The FX Gets Its First Speed Bump...

By, Marco Chiappetta
March 18, 2004

Next, we did some benchmarking with Epic's Unreal Tournament 2003. When testing with UT 2003, we use special game engine initialization settings, that ensure all of the systems are benchmarked with the exact same in-game settings and graphical options. For these tests, we used a "Low-Quality" setting that isolates CPU performance.

Unreal Tournament 2003
DirectX Gaming Performance

The Athlons scored a clear victory in the Unreal Tournament 2003 test.  At 193.07 FPS, the 3.4GHz P4 EE was the fastest of the Intel powered systems by about 31 FPS, but that wasn't quite fast enough to catch even the Athlon 64 3400+.  The Athlon 64 FX-53 posted an impressive 233.86 FPS, besting Intel's current flagship desktop CPU by 21.2%

X2: The Threat Rolling Demo
DirectX 9 Gaming Performance

For our last test, we used X2: The Threat's rolling demo version, which can be downloaded from  If you haven't already seen this game, check it out.  It is simply a gorgeous, multi-faceted space simulation.  Like all of the other in-game tests, we ran X2 at a low resolution, and to further reduce the video card's affect on performance, we disabled bump-maps as well.

Things turned around for the Pentium 4 based systems in the X2 benchmark.  The Athlon 64 FX-53 did manage to outperform all of the "non-Extreme" P4 systems by a few of frames per second, but the 3.4GHz P4 Extreme Edition smoked the competition.  With a score of 214.95, the P4 EE jumped ahead of the Athlon 64 FX-53 by 28.72 FPS or roughly 15.4%.

The $64,000 64-Bit Question...

As most of you probably know, the Athlon 64 and FX both have the ability to execute native 64-bit code.  We explained the benefits of 64-bit computing in this article, and have some very early benchmarks posted for you as well, but we will not be covering this topic in this review.  Although there have been some AMD64 compatible versions of Linux released recently, Microsoft's 64-Bit version of Windows XP is not quite ready for prime time.  Until it is, and we have some applications that can provide relative benchmark results, we'll stick to 32-bit Windows XP for now.  Microsoft has, however, released a beta version of Windows XP 64-Bit Edition should you want to experiment with it.  Head on over to this page, and sign up to download the ISO, then head here for a list of available 64-bit drivers.  Just keep in mind, this is still a beta release and won't be absolutely perfect.  You can rest assured with Intel now planning to use AMD's 64-bit extensions in future products as well, this OS will be retail ready soon.  We're expecting the official release in the second half of this year.

When the Athlon 64 FX-51 was released last September, Intel had a 1GHz clock speed advantage over AMD's new CPU, and yet the FX-51 still managed to outperform the standard Pentium 4, and even the then new 3.2GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, in a majority of the benchmarks we ran.  Back then, that 1GHz difference (3.2GHz vs. 2.2GHz) gave Intel a 45% advantage in clock speed.  Today, with both Intel and AMD giving their flagship CPUs a 200MHz boost in clock speed, Intel's still maintains a 1GHz clock speed advantage, but it has shrunk slightly to "only" a 41% difference (3.4GHz vs. 2.4GHz).  With AMD's higher IPC, picking up those few percentage points basically guaranteed AMD would extend their lead in the benchmarks where they had already held the lead, and guaranteed they'd close the gap slightly or overtake the P4 in the tests that Intel won or were too close to call.  In this sense, the Athlon 64 FX-53 is a solid victory for AMD.  The FX-53 outperformed every P4 in about 70% of the benchmarks we ran.  Couple this with the facts that the FX-53 runs significantly cooler than Prescott and costs significantly less than the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, we can safely say AMD is executing extremely well with their plan and the FX-53 is a definitive success.

At launch, AMD is pricing the new Athlon 64 FX-53 at $733 each in 1KU quantities.  That's not exactly chump change, but when compared to Intel's competing product, the $999 P4 Extreme Edition, $733 suddenly becomes a bargain to anyone with the budget looking to build a top-of-the-line machine.  In an interesting twist, those of you that were waiting for the first FX speed bump to drive the price of the FX-51 down, may be a little surprised by what AMD has in store.  Because AMD is positioning the FX as the "premiere" desktop CPU, they plan to only have 1 FX CPU for sale at any given time.  That means the FX-53 won't be a new addition to the FX line-up, it is a replacement for the FX-51.  This strategy is a bit out of the ordinary, but with the Athlon 64 3400+ performing at essentially the same level as the FX-51, it's probably not a major concern.

About the only thing preventing us from declaring the Athlon 64 FX-53 a "perfect win-win" upgrade, is the impending release of a new socket.  In the not so distant future, AMD will be switching all Athlon 64s to a 939-pin socket.  Production of 940-pin and 939-pin CPUs should overlap for some time, but the 940-pin package will eventually be reserved for the Opteron.  This scenario will limit the upgrade path for owners of motherboards with 940-pin sockets.  With the 939-pin packaging, Athlon 64 FXs should also support unbuffered RAM, which is another big plus.  In the end though, one thing is clear.  Enthusiasts in the market for arguably the fastest platform available TODAY, with the promise of true 64-bit computing tomorrow, should look no further than the Athlon 64 FX-53.

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