At What Price?

Chris Tom has some benchmarks of an 2GHz Opteron overclocked to 2.2GHz and 2.25GHz. Not surprisingly, running in a dual-channel DDR motherboard, it does pretty well against a PIV.

On the one hand, it’s at least modestly encouraging that an Opteron can do at least 2.2GHz fairly steadily without too much fuss.

But that one gets rid of only one of the bottlenecks.

The other two bottlenecks for overclockers still remain: cost and near-term obsolescence.

Put simply, a dual-channel overclocked socket 939 Opteron64 system will perform roughly the same as an overclocked PIV system, but cost considerably more than that PIV system, and not perform a whole lot better than an overclocked AthlonXP setup that is much cheaper than either.

Some might say, “Would you say that about Prescotts?” Of course we would. We’re consistently cheap. 🙂

Prices will eventually head downward, but we don’t think they’re going to drop a whole lot for the socket 939/940s.

We don’t expect overclockers to get too terribly involved with Athlon64s until socket 754 CPUs get plentiful and at least somewhat cheap. At earliest, that will come around February, could be later (especially for the cheap part).

A smaller cache and single-channel memory will compound the performance problem (though x86-64 could make up for that and a bit more).

Perhaps more importantly, by the time that happens, a new mobo standard will be imminent, meaning close to instant obsolescence.

Do we feel the same way about socket 478 Prescotts next spring? Yes, we do.

Early next year, what people should look for if they want to hang on to a new system for a while are not really CPUs, but mobos. You’re going to want a mobo that accommodate PCI Express and DDR2 first, then find a (cheap) CPU that will accommodate both.

This is especially important in the case of an Athlon64, since that onboard memory controller support for DDR2 will probably only come with the second generation of CPU.

Given the likely growing pains of these new standards, being the first on your block may end up not being such a good idea, but we’ll see.

The real question is, “Can AMD sell all the Hammers they make for the prices they want?” If they can, it really doesn’t matter if overclockers are shut out of the picture for a while. Not like Intel will be staying up at night worrying about O/Cers buying Prescotts.

If they can’t, given their delicate financial situation, they could be in for real problems.


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