What The 3000+ Tells Us
Oddly enough, what may be the most valuable piece of information about these 512K cache Athlon 64 3000+ chips are not the chips themselves, but their price.
Up to now, AMD’s policy has been to price desktop Hammers at a price about equal to the official Intel prices for the equivalent. Look at prices for the A64 3200+, and it has actually stayed closer to the Intel price than the Intel chips themselves.
The introduction of Newcastle gives AMD a bit of a pricing problem. They have to charge less for them than they would for a 1Mb cache chip.
But how much less?
One possible way to calculate the discount AMD will make based on less cache is to compare the price of the 3000+ to official Intel price for a 3GHz processor (incidentally, the official AMD price for a notebook Athlon 64 3000+ is exactly the same as the Intel official price: $278).
If we use that as a basis, we see a discount of about 25% from the official prices for the PIV/”big” A64.
Why does this matter? It matters because it gives us some basis for predicting socket 939 prices.
Fast Forward To April
By the time socket 939 shows up, official Intel prices will probably remain at mid-February levels. For our purposes, three Intel prices will do:
3.4 GHz: $420
3.2 GHz: $278
3.0 GHz: $218
These will be the figures around which AMD will base their prices.
It is likely that AMD will try to keep FX-style (i.e. dual-channel Hammers with 1Mb cache) CPUs at premium prices. Even given that, the price of the FX-51 will probably be cut down to roughly around the $420 level of the PIV 3.4 (and the stratospheric price will be given to the FX-53 when it shows up).
AMD can hardly make socket 939 a mainstream product when the cheapest CPU is over $400. Presumably, that’s what Newcastle is for.
We don’t know if AMD will price socket 939 Newcastles at a premium over socket 754 Newcastles. However, AMD can essentially do the same thing by increasing the rating (in their own minds for pricing purposes, if nothing else) of a socket 939 Newcastle up a 200 point PR notch. Since AMD has made similiar adjustments in the past with the latter Athlon XPs, and could justify such a jump from the increased performance from dual-channel, this is what they’ll probably do.
So a 2GHz (which is likely to be the ground floor for any desktop Hammer) socket 939 Newcastle would probably be considered the equivalent of a PIV 3.2GHz, which would put its price at around $278. A figure of around this is probably the maximum price AMD will set for the chip.
But then we have that little difference in cache. $278 is still a fairly hefty price for a mainstream chip, especially one competing with Prescott with double the cache for the same price.
AMD may very well decide to apply that 25% discount to the Newcastles just as they have to the A64.
Should they do so, we get a price of roughly $220, or just about what we’re seeing for A64s today.
So if you’re a pessimist, figure on a price of about $280 for a socket 939 Newcastle come April; if you’re an optimistic, a price of around $220.
Making Oneself Scarce
The Intel price cuts will affect Athlon 64 pricing, too. AMD is not going to like getting just $278 for a “big” Athlon 64, especially if they can make a rather smaller 2.2GHz Newcastle “Athlon 64 3200+” and reasonably sell it for $220.
Expect AMD to phase out/keep out big cached chips from the lower price ranges, whether A64 or FX. It will make their lives easier, and more importantly, free up a lot of die space to make more Hammers during a period of time when 90nm conversion is in full swing.
So long as Intel is calling the pricing shots, don’t expect one for quite some time after February 15. After February 15, the next Intel move will be to introduce a 3.6GHz Prescott, probably in April/May. However, that introduction will just plug what will be the missing $600+ niche in the Intel pricing structure; it will not trigger a pricing stepdown for lower rated models.
The next time a general price cut is likely to take effect would be at the introduction of the Prescott 3.8GHz. That may not be until August.
No, if we’re going to see further price cuts after February, AMD will almost certainly have to start them. They will be very disclined to start them, and if they can sell what they make, they won’t start them.
They’ll only start them if they can’t.
Should that happen, and given the fairly bouyant state of the PC market at the moment, my bet is that it won’t, the most likely time for that to begin happening is in May/June. At that point, AMD will have seriously cranked up production, and if the market just won’t buy at these prices, it won’t become evident until at least then.
If I had to bet, I’d say we’re going to have $220 socket 939 Newcastles and $150 socket 754 Newcastles to play with during the middle of the year.