Sorting It All Out

You Can’t Tell The Players Without A Scorecard

A lot of items have been flying by, let’s see if we can’t sort them out.

There will initially be two Athlon64 lines:

  • Athlon 64
  • Athlon 64 FX

    The original Athlon 64 looks like it will be a single memory channel, socket 754 system. It is unclear as of now how much cache it will have: it may have 512K; it may well have 1Mb.

    The Athlon 64 FX looks like The Opteron That Isn’t An Opteron. It will be a dual-memory channel, socket 940 system, almost certainly with 1Mb cache.

    The Athlon 64 will use a PR rating. This PR rating looks to be a bit lower than what was previously expected. The 2.0GHz Athlon64 will have a PR rating of 3200+; the 2.2GHz will have a PR rating of 3400+.

    The Athlon 64 FX will not use a PR rating, though it will probably debut at 2GHz.

    The Athlon 64 2GHz (3200+) will initially cost around $400; the Athlon 64 FX 2GHz will cost around $650.

    It is unclear whether or not lower speed bins will be offered at or shortly after product introduction. Preliminary indications are that it will not, though this is very likely subject to change.

    Production of either CPU will not be significant in 2003, it should be somewhat less than 5% of total CPU production (about 300,000). Serious rampup begins in the first quarter of 2004 (1.5 million), with crossover (Hammer production exceeding XP production) occurring sometime in the second quarter (3 million).

    Speed ramps for these two processors at 130nm will go to at least 2.2GHz, and may go to 2.4GHz.

    Sometime sooner rather than later next year. The Athlon FX will go from socket 940 to socket 939. The preponderance of evidence seems to indicate that socket 939 CPUs will not be compatible with socket 940 motherboards.

    There will also be at some point in time an Athlon64 That Isn’t An Athlon64. This appears to be what was previously called the “little” Athlon64s, those single-channel socket 754 systems with 256K cache. Although it will be branded “AthlonXP” it will not have an AthlonXP architecture, but rather a stripped-down Hammer architecture. The stripping-down apparently will include removal of x86-64 circuitry.

    PR ratings and pricing are unknown at this point. Information on release dates appears to be garbled; roadmap logic would dictate that 130nm products would show up at the end of 2003/beginning of 2004 and 90nm products would show up the second half of 2004.

    Two other changes will occur in the Hammer family in 2004. The one generally known will be migration from the initial 130nm to a 90nm manufacturing process. The one not so generally known will be modification of the on-board memory controllers to handle DDR2.

    Preliminary indications are that 90nm products should become available towards the end of the second quarter, 2004. There have been no real indications when DDR2 support will become available in Hammer processors.

    Second-generation Hammer motherboards should become available during the second quarter. These should incorporate PCI Express. They may or may not include DDR2 and/or whatever DDR2 memory support might be necessary

    CONTINUED page 2…



    This is a mess. The best advice for 95%+ of you is to hang onto/cheaply upgrade your socket A and come back a year from now and see if AMD has its act together.

    It seems like AMD has fallen victim to its own propaganda. It seems to think a ton of you (or at least somebody) will pay huge premiums just to get x86-64. There will be a relative few, but I know it’s not you. Well, it won’t be once there’s a price tag on it.

    Looking at this roadmap, the only significant overclocker market I see possibly developing is a dirt-cheap socket 754 something (and I suspect most won’t care less under those circumstances about x86-64 if the price is right) married to a dirt-cheap socket 754 mobo, and that assuming you can significantly overclock, one way or the other.

    Anything else looks more expensive than the Intel overclocking alternatives, much more expensive than the socket A overclocking alternatives, will stay so for quite some time to come, and by the time pricing might be reasonable, will be obsoleted almost immediately by a new platform.

    Under these circumstances, (practically) nobody around here is going to buy this, no more so than overclocking people buy 3.2GHz Northwoods today or 3.4GHz Prescotts tomorrow.

    What will be interesting/entertaining to watch is how the more extreme/vocal AMD fans/AMDroids react as the financial realities sink in. Will they feel betrayed? Will they feel that AMD is no longer on their side; that AMD isn’t their friend anymore? Will love turn to hate, and will they (at least vocally) turn on it?

    And how much will that affect the future of the company?

    (I suspect hardly at all, but it’s going to get noisy around here.)

    I think the much bigger problem will be persuading those more in touch with their wallet than inner child to buy come the spring. If the fan base sits on their wallets, will there be others to replace them?


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