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Workstation Conclusions

The NVIDIA nForce3 Professional motherboard chipset, coupled with an Opteron 144 processor running at 1.8 GHz is a powerful workstation setup. In our workstation application tests and benchmarks, the Opteron comes out slightly ahead of the Intel P4 processor running at almost twice the frequency AND with HyperThreading enabled on a platform that doesn’t require registered memory. That in itself is quite impressive and shows what AMD64 architecture can offer in the future as well, should we see the expected increase in clock speed.

The nForce3 chipset is the first available with AGP 3.0 support for graphics cards, though AMD-based chipset motherboards in dual-processor configurations are becoming available late this month. While you will probably see a dual-processor workstation comparison soon, you can guess that applications that properly implement multi-threading will see a nice increase of 15-35%.

The Pentium 4 processor does a good job of competing with the Opteron processor, though it isn’t able to hold up. A better comparison to the Opteron setup would be the Xeon family of processors from Intel with the increased cache sizes. We’ll see if we can include these CPUs in future articles.

Desktop Conclusions

In our short round of tests aimed at the desktop market, we saw that the Opteron 144 processor was doing well, but perhaps not what we were looking for quite yet. The memory scores on the synthetic benchmarks show the potential for the AMD64 architecture, especially in DDR400. While the results are positive, with the Opteron winning many of the benchmarks even at a speed of only 1.8 GHz, there are a couple of places they need to improve on before the desktop CPU launch on September 23rd.

First, DDR400 is going to be a must, and that may be more difficult to work out than many will say right now. While we got DDR400 to run on Registered DIMMs, it didn’t work with as high of stability as we’d like, and there really aren’t any major names making it yet. The brand we used was called Legacy, provided to us by AMD. Both Kingston and Corsair are in the process of developing memory for this purpose, but neither have anything they could supply us with as of yet. If AMD does have plans of taking DDR400 registered memory to the enthusiast market, they need to have enthusiast brands involved with it, otherwise there will be just one more hurdle for potential users to overcome.

Secondly, AMD will need to increase their clock speed at least one step and probably two. The goal of AMD with the Athlon 64 launch will be to put their name back under the performance crown, to show that they are more than capable of pouncing on Intel’s current and future processor releases. To do that, the numbers that reviewers show you, the readers, need to clearly show AMD in lead – not a few of the results and not just a majority – all or nearly all.

Finally, keeping the dual-channel memory option is something that I think should be kept across the entire line of Athlon 64 processors. While this is not an option that I think AMD can implement this late, it seems illogical to take the step backwards in technology from dual-channel to single-channel, even with the added benefits of a low-latency memory controller.

With all that in mind, we can now only wait until the 23rd to see what AMD can deliver.

What to look forward to…

In short, September 23rd. That is going to be one hell of a busy day for technology media. AMD, NVIDIA and others are going to make this year’s Computex at least busy for us, if not incredibly interesting.

The future for AMD and their Athlon 64 line of processors, their bread and butter (and nothing more, as of now!), is still up in the air. It all comes down to what the customer decides is best for himself, and the options go up for auction in late September.

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