What Are You Getting For Your Money?

Today is desktop Hammer day. It’s been a long wait.

Today will also be the coming-out day for the PIV EE. That has been a very short wait. 🙂

In both cases, though, the conclusions are the same. From the overclocker perspective, both companies are offering products that offer a little more performance than current offerings for a lot more money.

They are both products that represent the last gasp of 130nm technology. They are both products that, for different reasons, will be overtaken (cross your fingers) by newer technologies from these companies within a year. So will the current products, but the newbies won’t last any longer than the old fogies.

High price, little gain, short lifespan. These are hardly recommendations.

Today, we’re going to look at the performance of these uberchips from a different perspective: that of the CPU senior citizens.

We’re going to analyze some benchmarking data a bit to show how much gain you’d get from these budget busters compared to what you can do today with much cheaper, easily overclocked, current CPUs.

What We Have Today

The current overclocking favorites are one of two types of systems:

1) A TBredB/Barton system for most, or
2) A 2.4GHz PIV Springdale/Canterwood system.

Both systems can be significantly overclocked with virtually no effort. It is pretty safe to say that most recent TBred/Barton overclocked systems hit the performance level of an XP3200+ processor running with default settings.

It is also pretty safe to say that most recent overclocked PIV systems hit the performance level of a 3.2GHz PIV running with default settings. In fact, we’re being on the conservative side compared to what most serious overclockers try to do, but that’s OK, for this, we want to establish a baseline for a pretty painless overclock using today’s equipment.

The core parts of a Barton/full nForce2/dual-channel 512Mb system costs about $350 USD. The PIV equivalent system would cost about $500 USD.

In contrast, an Athlon 3200+ system with single-channel memory looks like it will cost about $700 USD, while the Intel PIV EE should cost a bit more than $1,000USD, and an Athlon FX system more like $1,200USD.

What do you get extra for your extra money?

What we did was analyze the benchmarking data from this review (and please, give it a long look) and normalized the performance of the CPU using the performance of the AthlonXP 3200+ as the standard with a score of 100.

We then converted the other scores to that scale to show how much better (or worse) they did than the 3200+. If a CPU gets a score of 110, that means it was 10% faster than the 3200+ at that particular benchmark. If a CPU got a 90, that means it was 10% slower than the 3200+.

The results were color-coded into three categories. The 3200+ and the PIV 3.2GHz were coded purple, so you could see how current overclocking solutions do.

The results from the Athlon 64, Athlon FX and Intel PIV EE were colored light blue so you could easily see how well the new chips did at default speeds.

Any overclocking results from the review from the 64, FX or EE were colored black, so you could see how much overclocking helped. Please note that these chips aren’t going to overclock a lot without dire means being taken, and the results are probably quite representative of you would might expect from the average overclocking effort.

Finally, we made sure all graphs started at zero, so you’d get a clear visual picture of the actual degree of differences (or lack thereof).

A Few Words First On the Uberchips

The AMD chips do OK. Viewed strictly from a performance standard, they’re pretty competitive against the Intel chips, and the picture looks prettier than looked likely even just two months ago. That’s because AMD made some last-minute changes and corrections.

First, they created the Opteron that Isn’t An Opteron at the last minute when they realized single-channel wasn’t going to quite cut it against dual-channel PIV systems. They should have realized that a lot sooner, and this 939/940 pin issue just shoots themselves in the foot, but it was good that they did it.

Second, they downgraded the expected PR on the Athlon64 a few hundred points. Calling a 2GHz Athlon64 the equivalent of a 3.2GHz PIV is at least defensible, calling it the equivalent of a 3.4GHz wouldn’t have been.

Finally, they got the core frequency of at least the FX up to 2.2GHz (with the same for the 64 expected to follow fairly shortly). That helps. Outside of what appears to be a weak SSE2 implementation, there’s nothing wrong with the Hammer design. On the whole, it’s pretty good and should even be better in 90nm.

However, as we’ve said all along, this chip needs x86-64 to jump substantially ahead of Intel. It is no Intel killer or even wounder in 32-bit; it’s roughly equivalent, better in some things, worse in others.

The Intel EE? It’s obviously a last minute stand-in, and gets off a few good lines, but it’s beginning to look like the reason why it’s in there is because the star broke his leg. Prescott has been delayed another month until early December.

Remember, this chip was supposed to be out last spring. Intel doesn’t normally do December launches; they either launch a CPU in September or October to catch Christmas, or they wait until mid-January.

It’s getting harder to believe everything is OK.

In any event, the EE gives little more bang for the buck in 32-bit than the FX, and can’t even wave 64-bit someday in front of people like the FX can.



It takes overclocking for even the best of the uberCPUs to beat an XP by more than 20%, or a PIV by more than 10%.


Another calculation-intense benchmarking program is ScienceMark:


The little old XP beats the PIV in this one, and really doesn’t get beaten until you start overclocking $800 CPUs.


I don’t know why people use 3DMark to benchmark CPUs; the only change that really moves the numbers is a better video card. Nonetheless:


The XP is a bit disadvantaged, but the PIV loses by little.

There’s even less of a difference in 3DMark 2003:


If you want to shine on this benchmark, spend your money on a Radeon 9800XT next month. You ought to be able to buy a PIV system AND that little more than the price of the FX alone.


The PIV beats everything. You’d have to overclock the EE or FX to beat a $170 processor.



No crushing blow by the uberprocessors here.



This one’s almost embarrassing.



The PIV meets or beats everything else, and Hammer can’t put his scrappy ancestor away.



This time, the EE puts the PIV (somewhat) in its place, but Grandpa XP is still getting in a few good licks against his kids.



By this point, you ought to be saying “Uggh” at what you’re seeing.