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AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 (Socket 939) Processor Review

By: Mike Wright | AMD CPUs & APUs in CPUs, Chipsets & SoCs | Posted: Sep 10, 2004 4:00 am
TweakTown Rating: 9.5%Manufacturer: AMD

The Processor

 

 

For those who have long been concerned about fragile cores, you can finally rest easy. While the manufacture of the older style core was getting to a point where they didn't really break that easily, it was still possible to have a beginner with no experience manage to crack the corners from time to time.

 

Like their Intel counterpart, AMD has gone to a very large heat spreader that covers the entirety of the top portion of the processor. While the core is not that large, it offers a means to spread out the heat over a larger surface area and also offers protection from those who are still new to system building. This is certainly a welcome addition to the AMD line.

 

 

As you flip the processor over, one of the first things you will notice is the lack of a central pocket without pins. Since we're moving from a socket 462 model to this one, we have a far greater number of pins to contend with. Like the predecessors, however, there are set pin layouts and you can easily make sure the processor is inserted correctly since it will only fit one way.

 

Another thing you'll notice immediately is the weight of the processor. This thing is downright hefty. We're talking in the neighborhood of about 40 grams in weight for this beast. Granted the heat spreader adds to this total, but you don't generally expect this kind of beef when you grab on to the brains of your new construction. To put this weight into perspective, the AMD Athlon XP Mobile we're updating from weighs in at about 11 grams. The difference is huge!

 

One thing you'll want to double check before installing the new gem is the pin conditions. If you'll look closely at the photo above (you can click it for a larger image as always), you'll see about three pins toward the bottom left that are just slightly bent inwards. With the increase in pin counts rising all the time, the pins are more fragile than they used to be. This is not uncommon, so prepare yourself up front and be prepared to do a little gentle pin manipulation and you'll be fine. The easiest way to handle this is to ever so gently bend the pins to what looks to be a proper position and then lay the processor into the socket. Put gentle pressure on the corners to see if it falls down into place. If not, then remove and again gently align the pins. Use patience and you'll be up and running in no time.

 

 

We'll just cover briefly some of the high points of the new Athlon 64 architecture. While there are a whole crate full of features and abilities, most of us won't have any real ideas as to what they really mean. There are, however, some very important concepts that AMD has put into play that are worthy of mention. We've heard that this processor is supposed to be fast, but it is also nice to have at least a basic understanding as to why it is supposed to be so fast.

 

First off, the FX line of processor comes with a heaping helping of onboard cache. There is a total of 128KB of L1 cache and a full 1MB of L2 cache. Since this onboard memory is very fast, it helps you when running applications where data is being moved all the time through the memory pipelines. The data that is being used most often can stay resident in the cache and be instantly accessed by the system. This makes both games and productivity software applications run faster and smoother with fewer lagging times when the system is looking for needed data.

 

Next is the onboard memory controller. Yes, you heard correctly, this processor has the DDR memory controller (Dual Channel) built into its architecture. This is beneficial as it helps reduce the memory latency. The way things were set up before, you had the processor talking to the Northbridge and then talking to the memory. Since faster processor speeds helped shorten the amount of time it took to communicate this distance, the inclusion of the controller on the processor itself makes the higher speeds of the processor have an even more dramatic effect. Now the processor communicates directly to the system memory with no middleman.

 

Hyper Transport Technology is another of the big features present in the Athlon FX series processor. Since the memory controller is built into the processor now, the concept of FSB is getting to be a moot point. This FSB used to dictate how fast data was passed between different subsystems of the PC. Since FSB is phasing itself out, there has to be another means of communication between the processor and peripherals. Enter Hyper Transport, which effectively moves data at a speed of 1000MHz in each direction. Since it is a two way communication, you will often hear folks saying there is an effective system bus speed of 2000MHz. While some will argue this point, the fact remains that it is still far faster than conventional systems using even a 250MHz FSB speed. The Hyper Transport used in the FX series processors has up to an 8GB/second of system bus bandwidth. For those new to this type of technology, this is simply huge.

 

Finally, there is native support for 64-bit applications. While this isn't really a strong selling point right now, it likely soon will be. If you'll think back several years you'll remember the huge controversies of moving from a 16-bit OS to a 32-bit version. People complained all the time saying there wasn't a need for this enhanced operating system, but lo and behold all the software companies began churning out 32-bit applications. Within the next couple of years, I think you can expect to see a similar scenario with the 64-bit software. If you think about it, both Microsoft and Linux have 64-bit versions of their operating systems available for public consumption. While the Windows is still in beta form, the Linux is a bit more finalized.

 

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