FX-55

Some comments on a few websites have been revised, and now the FX-55 is being reported to make its arrival in mid-late third quarter.

This estimate makes sense given what else AMD has been saying about what it’s doing.

By that time, AMD ought to have at least the first fruits of its 90nm production, and that’s what the FX will almost certainly be.

The FX-55 ought to provide an early demonstration of why we have for the longest time suggested that people wait for 90nm Hammers before leaving their socket A platforms.

First, unlike current FXs, the FX-55 will be at the low-end of the 90nm totem pole rather than at the high-end of the 130nm pole. That should make it inherently more overclockable than its ancestor.

Even a pessimistic estimate of what the initial ones ought to do would get an FX-55 close to 3GHz, and the Mr. Freezes should certainly be able to break 3GHz and then some. After the second spin of the production silicon, 3GHz will probably be a reasonable little-to-no-fuss effort.

3GHz is certainly nothing to sneeze at when you realize that conservatively, that translates out to better than a 4.5-4.8GHz Intel Prescott. Intel won’t reach those kinds of speeds until they get to Tejas.

A 2.6GHz FX-55 ought to run rather cooler than an FX-53, and downright cold compared to a PressHot. There’s some rumored indications that 90nm SOI chips run very coolly at low speeds, but ramp up quickly at higher ones. Even at high speeds, though, power and heat are no big deal by today’s standards and certainly much better than an equivalent PressHot would be.

The die size of a 90nm Hammer ought to hover around 100 sq.mm, a bit more with a big cache, a bit less with a little cache. Per number of chips on a die, it will be like making XPs.

This ought to make AMD try to shift Hammer production over to 90nm for all its speeds as quickly as they can.

Paris: Tactics Over Strategy

Obviously, not too many of you will be standing on line or online just waiting to fork over $750 for this chip. AMD looks to have two other options for you.

For the relatively loose-of-wallet, there will be 90nm Newcastle socket 939 processors. They’ll have less cache, and probably a lower-rated speed than the FX.

For the low end, we’ll see “Paris,” which essentially will be a Thoroughbred B with an online memory controller but no x86-64 and just a single-channel memory architecture.

Paris is a rather odd duck. It has a rather big conceptual problem is that it basically gives the finger to any claims that x86-64 as the wave of the future. The more boxes that have x86-64, the more likely it is that mainstream software writers will write for it, which will put pressure on Intel to go universal with it, too.

Yes, AMD does get an advantage from doing this in that people interested in x86-64 will be forced to move upstream and pay more to get it. It also provides a definitive difference in performance between Paris and its big brother.

But these are tactical advantages that can blow up in AMD’s face the moment Intel ever decides to put out an x86-64 Celeron. Even if that doesn’t happen, you know there’s going to be people with Paris OEM boxes who’ll think they have x86-64 capable boxes, and when they find out they don’t . . . .

This is a great example of AMD thinking tactically rather than strategically. If they really want x86-64 to become a mainstream standard rather than blue crystals for geeks, they’d include it. True, they may lose some low-end Newcastle business if they do, but they’ll probably lose even more Newcastle sales due to lack of mainstream x86-64 software to Intel if they don’t.

That being said, the blue-crystalless Paris has rather differing levels of appeal to different groups.

It looks great as a cheap Joe Sixpack box, extending its lead over any Celeron box to almost ludicrous proportions.

It doesn’t look as hot as an Athlon XP replacement. The chip will probably be priced right for AMDers, but add the cost of a mobo to it, and we’re probably looking at $200 for a replacement. The price/performance improvement will be less than compelling, at least to start.

It won’t start looking good until we see 90nm equivalents in 2005.

What will overclockers do? Will they go for 90nm Newcastles sooner, or 90nm XP+s later?

It all comes down to price.

The Middle Is What Matters…

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