Blurring The Lines

The Inquirer has a rather interesting report about “Athlon64s.”

I say “Athlon64s” because it sure looks like they’re going to take an Opteron and call it an Athlon64.

I suppose AMD can call their dog a cat, but just try getting a 940-pin “Athlon64” into a 754-pin “Athlon64” motherboard.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If it’s socket 940; it’s an Opteron. We’ll call it an Opteron64.

More intriguing is the statement in the article that the “value line” of “real” Athlon64s will have 512K cache rather than the 256K expected up to now. If true, that’s good news, and should considerably reduce the handicap this chips will have against Intel’s Prescott due to cache size.

If true, this would tend to confirm our suspicion that the A64 Jr. is really meant to be the standard AMD desktop chip.

What Does An Opteron64 Get You Over An Athlon64?

Well, it should get you 1Mb of cache. It ought to get you dual-channel DDR. It might get you dual-processor capacity. These are all features that won’t be available in the Jr. models. Performance difference? The extra cache and dual-channel ought to boost performance roughly 10%, maybe a bit more.

Unless pricing changes radically, though, it will get you a huge price tag. If the price points described in the abovementioned article for Opterons stay the same; the price of a 2GHz Opteron64 at best would be about $400 (and could be more). It’s hard to see how AMD could charge significantly less for an Opteron64 than for a “real” uniprocessor Opteron.

Nor will Opteron motherboards come cheap. I don’t think we’re going to see any $100, or even $199 Opteron motherboards.

Another Driving-By-The-Seat-Of-Their-Pants Move?

There’s been a few inklings here and there that AMD is just not ready for a September launch of Athlon64s. For instance, the nForce3 board meant for “real” Athlon64s isn’t supposed to be out until November.

Moving to 512K for the A64 Jrs. probably delayed plans a bit, and at least is a plausible excuse for another two month delay.

On the other hand, in the minds of many, AMD’s credibility is on the line, and no excuse, no matter how legitimate, will excuse missing yet another deadline.

So they’ll call an Opteron an Athlon64 and “meet” the deadline.

It’s a bunch of nonsense, but given the likely pricing, getting wound up about this is like getting wound up about Rolls Royce manuevers. You aren’t going to buy one anyway, so who cares what they do?

We have thought, think, and will continue to think that the average overclocker shouldn’t even think about getting the wallet out for this platform until we see the 90nm generation of these processors come out roughly a year from now.

The speed difference by then should be big enough to begin justifying a platform shift from socket A; the overclockability should be greater, and mobos by that point should shift over to PCI-Express.

And by then, maybe AMD will figure out what’s an Opteron and what’s an Athlon64.

Or maybe IBM will figure it out for them.


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