Socket 939 Cometh, But . . .

Looks Like April

The Inquirer has a number of pieces indicating that socket 939 should come out the end of March, mobos from Via and nVidia ought to be ready by then, along with even Windows for AMD64.

That will be good news for AMD, but will that be good news for you?

2004 is beginning to look like a year in which what might be good or at least OK for Intel and AMD and their typical users may not be at all good for the typical overclocker. Issues that affect us greatly won’t affect them at all.

For instance, the average computer buyer will neither know nor care about the maximum amperage/wattage his or her motherboard can handle. To him or her (and I suspect to too many of those reading this), that’s an esoteric geeky thing.

However, that esoteric geeky feature is essentially going to determine at the least whether a motherboard will be a good overclocker of 90nm Hammers or not. It might even determine whether or not they’ll run at all.

Currently, the maximum power design for 130nm Hammers is 60A/89 watts of power. The maximum power design for 90nm Hammers is 80A/105 watts of power. The issue for overclockers and mobos isn’t really heat; it’s whether old mobos will be able to handle the amperage (if it’s meant for 60A at 1.5V, and you’re using 90A at 1.5V to try to overclock a 90nm Hammer, that may just be too much for the MOSFETs to handle).

It’s a real potential problem, and you shouldn’t treat it as “what I don’t know won’t hurt me.”

Now if you don’t mind tossing out a mobo after six months, this ought not bother you, either, but only if that’s the case.

A buyer of an OEM computer is a little more likely to know and perhaps care about PCI Express (if only because the ad tells him to), but it seems like the initial socket 939 boards may retain the old AGP format, followed by boards that don’t three or four months later.

That might seem to be good news for those who want to transfer modern equipment in a current system over now, but for those who shoot a ton for an initial socket 939 system (including expensive video card), that might not look so good a year from now when the hottest cards will all be PCIExpress.

What You Ought To Want

You ought to want a socket 939 motherboard that meets the maximum technical specifications for running 90nm Hammers. Period. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up buying two mobos.

Assuming some of the early boards meet those power/thermal standards, the AGP/PCIExpress issue is an iffier matter. If you are already loaded for bear video-cardwise, sooner may well be better than later. If you’re not, you have the unpleasant choice between waiting quite a while for a PCIExpress setup, or buying a video card form factor where you probably won’t be able to upgrade to a cutting-edge card twelve-eighteen months from now.


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