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Appeared on: Tuesday, September 21, 2004
AMD Athlon 64 3800+


1. Introduction

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 1

- Introduction

Last year, Advanced Micro Devices introduced us to the first two Athlon 64-bit processors. The Athlon 3000+ and FX-51 were built for 754 and 940-pin sockets respectively. Now AMD once again changed its CPU design and came up with a new socket infrastructure, the 939-pin socket, which seems to be the future of the Athlon 64 processors with its main competitor being the S-940.

The 939 socket processors offer the same class performance as the 940-pin but with less cost for the motherboard manufacturers since it only requires a 4-layer PCB, compared to the 7-9 layer requirement of the previous generation.

However, the most important difference might be the fact that the 939 no longer requires registered RAM modules. Registered RAM uses some registers or buffers that intercept the data transfer and delay it for one clock cycle to make sure that all data is error free and transferred successfully. Registered DIMMs are basically designed for servers and systems where data integrity is a primary issue. This is why the 940-pin FX processors are often characterized as being designed for workstation computers.

Socket 939 Socket 940

So with registered RAM being more expensive than unbuffered RAM, S-939 makes a cost-effective solution, convenient for gaming and personal computers.

Let's take a look at the following table showing all the AMD 64-bit Athlon processors and some of their major differences.

Model Number

Frequency

L2 Cache

Socket Type

3800+

2.4GHz

512KB

939-pin

3700+

2.4GHz

1024KB

754-pin

3500+

2.2GHz

512KB

939-pin

3400+

2.4GHz

512KB

754-pin

3200+

2.2GHz

512KB

754-pin

3000+

2.0GHz

512KB

754-pin

FX-51

2.2GHz

1024KB

940-pin

FX-53

2.4GHz

1024KB

940-pin

FX-53

2.4GHz

1024KB

939-pin

As you can see, the 939-pin socket seems to take over the S-754 and S-940 on both Athlon 64 and Athlon FX families.

Athlon 64 processor architecture

In this review, we had the opportunity to test the 3800+, the latest and very promising platform in the Athlon 64 family by AMD.


2. Features

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 2

Let's take a quick look at some of the features the 3800+ has to offer:


CPU Core Frequency 2.40GHz (12x200 with locked multiplier)
Simultaneous 32- & 64-bit computing Yes
L1 Cache (Instruction + Data) 128KB (64KB + 64KB)
L2 Cache 512KB
HyperTransport Yes, one 16x16 link @ 2000 MHz
HyperTransport I/O Bandwidth Up to 8 GB/s
Integrated DDR Memory Controller Yes
Memory Controller Width 128-bit
Memory Supported PC3200, PC2700, PC2100 and PC1600 DDR unbuffered memory
Memory Bandwidth Up to 6.4 GB/s
Total Processor-to-system Bandwidth (HTT plus memory bandwidth) Up to 14.4 GB/s
Process Technology 130 nanometer, Silicon-on-insulator technology
Packaging 939-pin organic micro PGA
Thermal Design Power 89W
Die Size 144 mm2
Number of Transistors Approximately 68.5 million

Our NewCastle processor, as recognized by CPU-Z.

Some details about our motherboard and BIOS settings

 

Check out these wonderful timings!

The Athlon 64 3800+ runs by default, at a speed of 2.4GHz, the same clock speed as the FX-53. With an L2 cache size of 1024KB, the FX processor overshadows the 3800+ performance-wise, with the latter having no extra features to make up for it. Instead, it's built with a locked multiplier that would probably disappoint most overclockers.

However, the 3800+ ships at a price of only $660, a lot less than the cost of the FX-53 (around $850), making it the best buy between the two.


3. System Specifications

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 3

Here's a list of what we used to test the 3800+ processor:

System Specifications:
CPU: AMD 3800+(2.4GHz)CPU
Cooler: Zalman CNPS7000A-Cu
Motherboard: A8V Deluxe
Power supply: Levicom 500 Watt
Memory: 2x OCZ DDR-SDRAM PC3200 – 512 MB (dual channel)
VGA: Sapphire 9800pro
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
OS: Windows XP Pro SP2 & Windows XP x64 Edition SP1
Drivers: 4.8 Catalyst & 64-bit Catalyst beta
DirectX: v9.0b

Benchmarks & Applications used

As we mentioned earlier, apart from the recently released Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, we used a Windows XP 64-bit edition beta, or as Microsoft likes to call it, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Customer Preview, to test our hardware. We were hoping to see a few improvements or changes but it seems not much has changed after all. For the tests we installed a beta version of the 64-bit ATI Catalyst drivers. We were pleasantly surprised to discover than not only the drivers are quite stable, but also on some benchmarks, we even got better results from the 32-bit platform. Of course, we noticed some minor bugs, especially in the 2-D acceleration area, but after all, it's still a beta version, isn't it?


4. Prime95

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 4

Prime95

Prime95 is basically a Mersenne prime number discovery program. It's a great example of Distributed Computing but it's most loved by overclockers for its powerful system stress-testing and benchmarking abilities. It can torture test your CPU to produce its maximum heat or spit out any errors due to excessive overclocking. Also using the blend test it can consume all your physical memory and run error-checking tests on your modules to ensure their quality. However, right now we're mostly interested in it for its benchmarking capabilities.

Here are the timings for our Athlon 64 3800+, Athlon XP 2000+ and an Intel P4 2.4GHz.

The power of the 3800+ is self-evident.We were excited to see that when comparing it to the Athlon XP processor, its calculations took almost half the time of the latter, therefore justifying it's name. However, when it comes to the Intel P4 running at 2.4GHz, we can see it falls behind but only for a few microseconds (µs).

You might wonder why we are comparing one of AMD's latest processors with a previous generation Intel Pentium 4 and actually be satisfied with the results. The fact is that AMD processors are well known for their lousy results in computational applications such as Prime95 and their generally decreased performance in applications where the actual CPU clock speed plays the most important role. Keep that in mind and also note that Prime95 is mostly optimised for Pentium 4 processors.


5. PCMark04

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 5

PCMark04

PCMark04 is an application-based benchmark and a premium tool for measuring overall PC performance. It uses portions of real applications instead of including very large applications or using specifically created code. This allows PCMark04 to be a smaller installation as well as to report very accurate results. As far as possible, PCMark04 uses public domain applications whose source code can be freely examined by any user.

PCMark04 includes 4 categorized suites for benchmarking your computer. These include a CPU, Graphics, Memory and a Hard Disk Drive benchmark.

As you can see, we've excluded the HDD results from the chart, since they are completely worthless for our purposes. Also, we had some problems running the CPU suite under 64-bits.

Let's examine the extended results:

CPU

WinXP 32-bit

WinXP 64-bit

File Compression

3.3 MB/s

3.3 MB/s

File Encryption

37.2 MB/s

37.3 MB/s

File Decompression

28.9 MB/s

29.3 MB/s

Image Processing

14.6 MPixels/s

14.7 MPixels/s

Grammar Check

6.5 KB/s

6.6 KB/s

File Decryption

74.2 MB/s

74.7 MB/s

Audio Conversion

3171.9 KB/s

3162.2 KB/s

WMV Video Compression

56.2 FPS

56.1 FPS

DivX Video Compression

71.8 FPS

0.0

Memory

WinXP 32-bit

WinXP 64-bit

Raw Block Read - 8 MB

5941.9 MB/s

5921.4 MB/s

Raw Block Read - 4 MB

5966.3 MB/s

5928.7 MB/s

Raw Block Read - 192 KB

11534.1 MB/s

11810.0 MB/s

Raw Block Read - 4 KB

30707.6 MB/s

30684.1 MB/s

Raw Block Write - 8 MB

5940.8 MB/s

5913.9 MB/s

Raw Block Write - 4 MB

5942.6 MB/s

5911.9 MB/s

Raw Block Write - 192 KB

7648.0 MB/s

7640.0 MB/s

Raw Block Write - 4 KB

23356.2 MB/s

23338.1 MB/s

Raw Block Copy - 8 MB

2597.8 MB/s

2531.1 MB/s

Raw Block Copy - 4 MB

2618.9 MB/s

2542.9 MB/s

Raw Block Copy - 192 KB

4344.6 MB/s

4788.0 MB/s

Raw Block Copy - 4 KB

12444.5 MB/s

12445.5 MB/s

Random Access - 8 MB

3318.1 MB/s

3307.9 MB/s

Random Access - 4 MB

3321.0 MB/s

3315.6 MB/s

Random Access - 192 KB

7325.9 MB/s

7447.9 MB/s

Random Access - 4 KB

15740.5 MB/s

15729.2 MB/s

Graphics

WinXP 32-bit

WinXP 64-bit

Transparent Windows

1493.9 Windows/s

365.7 Windows/s

Graphics Memory - 16 lines

3012.2 FPS

3002.8 FPS

Graphics Memory - 32 lines

2888.5 FPS

2878.2 FPS

3D - Fill Rate Single Texturing

1631.4 MTexels/s

1633.0 MTexels/s

3D - Fill Rate Multitexturing

2226.4 MTexels/s

2223.1 MTexels/s

3D - Polygon Throughput Single Light

33.6 MTriangles/s

33.5 MTriangles/s

3D - Polygon Throughput Multiple Lights

7.8 MTriangles/s

7.7 MTriangles/s

You may have noticed that it's the DivX encoding CPU benchmark we haven't been able to run under 64-bits. Instead, we run our own little benchmark, re-encoding our Finding Nemo DVD movie into MPEG2 format using DVD-Shrink.

Our results: On 32-bit windows: 15 minutes 36 seconds. On 64-bit windows: 15 minutes 34 seconds.

The difference is once again negligible as was the case with most of the PCMark04 tests.

Windows XP x64 seems to work almost as well as the 32-bit version. Its file handling has improved a bit but all the other results point to the same old 32-bit version.

Still, note the results on the transparent windows test under the Graphics suite. In this test, 10 windows are drawn on-screen and then faded in and out. The results are then recorded in average number of windows drawn per second.

Here x64 performance drops dramatically. With an average of 365 windows per second, it fails miserably to even yield half the 32-bit 2D-accelleration performance.

Apparently ATI's beta driver is the one responsible here and hopefully everything will be fixed as soon as Windows x64 Edition draws closer to the final stage of release.


6. SiSoftware Sandra 2004

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 6

SiSoftware Sandra 2004

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.

CPU Arithmetic

Sandra's CPU arithmetic benchmark suite uses 2 famous benchmarks (Dhrystone and Whetstone) for stress testing the processor. Also it includes a new version of the Whetstone test that makes use of a processor's SSE2 instructions to show the performance boost an application might gain should it be optimized for SSE2. Unfortunately this does not always represent a true real-life performance, but is useful to compare the speed of various CPUs.

Note:All Intel results are taken as provided by SiSoftware Sandra 2004.

You can see the outstanding performance we got from the 3800+ with the Dhrystone benchmark. With just 600 iterations per second behind Intel's 4GHz beast, it leaves all other Pentiums behind. However, that's not the case when it comes to the Whetstone benchmark. There, the results for AMD's top Athlon 64 processor are not so pleasant.

Notice the remarkable difference in the Whetstone benchmarks, with and without SSE2 use. Intel was the one to introduce us to these instructions with their P4 processors. As more and more software companies implemented SSE2 code into their applications, AMD finally decided to incorporate it too, starting with all their Athlon 64 and FX products. So no Athlon XP supports SSE2, making a 64-bit processor a much wiser choice if you're considering upgrading in the immediate future.

Without SSE2, the 3800+ ranks fourth in place, with 300 iterations per second more than the P4 3GHz and 200 less that the P4 3.2GHz. Given AMD's much lower CPU clock speed we have to admit it's still impressive that it didn't finish last on this benchmark. However, when it runs the benchmark using SSE2, the 3800+ gets only 1200 more per second, whereas the Intel processors get a boost of approximately 3000 iterations. Here it let us down and dropped to last place with a huge difference from its HyperThreaded competitors.

CPU Multimedia

This test involves the generation of Mandelbrot Set fractals that are used to realistically describe and generate natural objects such as mountains or clouds. By using various multi-media extensions MMX, 3DNow! and SSE(2/3) better performance is achieved.

Here, the benchmark runs on all Pentiums taking advantage of their x8 SSE2 instructions for integers and x4 SSE2 for floating points, whereas on our AMD it could make use of its x4 Enhanced MMX and SSE instructions for integers.
However, it's with floating point calculations where the 3800+ seems to lack in performance, where after it was placed third in the integer test, it managed last for floating point.

Memory

This tests examines how your memory sub-system compares to other systems with the same or similar memory. The benchmark is based on the well-known STREAM memory bandwidth benchmark.

As in all other tests, so in this one we used our high performance 2x512Mb OCZ PC3200 EL 2-2-2-5 dual channel DDR memory modules.

On the chart you can see our results compared to the top 4 memory modules, as included in the latest version of Sisoft Sandra 2004.

No wonder OCZ declares itself as the manufacturer of the best performing DDR memory. Even though we couldn't overclock our processor due to the limitations of the A8V motherboard, the system easily broke the 6000 limit, 400Mb/s above the former fastest memory, on both Integer and Floating-Point calculation tests.


7. Futuremark 3DMark03

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 7

Futuremark 3DMark03

3DMark is a widely used and accepted benchmark that stresses the DirectX performance of a VGA card. For testing the performance of each card, we use the 4 game benchmark 3DMark has. The first is a DirectX 7 game, the second and the third use DirectX 8 and the last one stresses graphics under DirectX 9. A very strong point of 3DMark is that its VGA card measuring does not require a lot of CPU power. So the resulting fps are a good reference of a VGA card's rendering performance.

GT3 - Troll's Lair GT4 - Mother Nature

Using our Sapphire 9800 Pro ultimate VGA card (for which, you can read our review here), we got 100 more 3dmarks under 64-bit Windows.

Taking a closer look at the 3dmark03 benchmarks, we can see that this virtual difference in the total result is due mainly from the drivers DirectX 7 performance in the first test, Wings of Fury.
On the next two DX8.1 tests, the x64 drivers show that they can't hold the lead and definitely lose it on the final game, which benchmarks DX9 performance.

Of course, the difference of a single frame per second is ridiculously small and not even worth considering, but it still indicates a small decline in x64 performance.

Let's move on to the next test.


8. Far Cry v1.1 (DX9)

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 8

Far Cry v1.1 (DX9)

Far Cry Logo

Far cry is an awesome First Person Shooter (FPS) based on a last generation 3D engine named CryEngine. Real-time editing, bump-mapping, static lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features that the CryEngine offers.

A great advantage and strong point of the CryEngine is its physics system which supports character inverse kinematics, vehicles, rigid bodies, liquid, rag doll, cloth and body effects. All physics seem to be very realistic and you never get bored when facing enemies, since character models have multiple animations that blend in believable ways.

With an integrated shader system and a massive terrain which maximizes the view distance to 2km, these features make Far cry a perfect action game and also a referable benchmark to speak of.

Far Cry - Beach

For this benchmark we recorded our own custom demo for Far Cry on the Dam stage. We started from the beginning of the level at the beach and moved around a bit until we reached the cliff, from where the whole village can be seen.

Here are the results:

We can't see any major performance difference here. Windows XP 32-bit is able to run the game a bit faster by a lead of 2 fps. Unfortunately, we couldn't get our hands on a 64-bit version of Far Cry, with which Ubisoft claims to offer optimized code for AMD 64 that would take advantage of everything a 64-bit processor can offer and probably put WinXP x64 on top.


9. UT2004 (DX8.1)

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 9

UT2004 (DX8.1)

UT2004 Logo

Unreal Tournament 2004 is a multiplayer first person shooter that combines the kill-or-be-killed experience of gladiatorial combat with cutting-edge technology.

Ten game modes - both team-based and "every man for himself" -- provide even the most hardcore gamer with palm-sweating challenges through unbelievably detailed indoor arenas and vast outdoor environments.

As the ultimate techno-gladiator of the future, players will take their fates into their hands, battling against up to 32 other players online in action-packed, frag-filled arenas.

OnS-Torlan

We conducted our tests using maximum details on the following two, botmatch levels.

Ons-torlan for On-Slaught and ctf-bridgeoffate for the Capture-the-flag game type. UT2004 is not much of a graphics-intensive game, so we had the chance to see how much CPU bound the same VGA card would be on a mid-end computer system such as a P4 2.4GHz on an ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe motherboard with 2x256Mb of PC3200 OCZ memory modules.

OnS-Torlan

The difference in fps is exciting. UT2004 gets an average performance boost of 60fps, a fact which proves that the Sapphire 9800 pro Ultimate is still a remarkable card being able to deliver such framerates when the CPU can keep pace with its quality.

On the other hand, we got a noticeable performance decrease with the 64-bit drivers when benchmarking on the darker and closed set of Capture-the-flag Bridge Of Fate map.


10. Conclusion

AMD Athlon 64 3800+ - Page 10

- Conclusion

AMD Athlon 64 3800+

AMD's Athlon 3800+ is undoubtedly one of the best processors you can acquire for your computer. With its only drawback being its price (around $660), even if it's cheaper than the FX-53, it's still a large amount of money that right now, only enthusiasts are likely to fork out for a new processor.

For those of you who are not looking for an upgrade to a high-end system but something less pricey, obviously the 3800+ isn't the right choice yet. You can just as well choose an Athlon 64 3500+ or an Intel 3.0Ghz, depending on what you use your computer for. However, keep in mind that with the socket infrastructure change from AMD, chances are that you'll have to upgrade your motherboard as well when time comes and your processor drops to the low-end class and needs to be upgraded again.

Microsoft Windows XP x64 Edition

It was a relief to see that our experience with the beta version wasn't as painful as we thought it would be. We played around with x64 for about a week and everything worked out satisfactory.

Of course, it's not an operating system you can still count on for your work and there's no reason really for you to install it just yet. However, the work that has been done by Microsoft to port the 32-bit code into 64-bits is excellent. Keep in mind that all applications now have the ability to do calculations twice as long, but instead of having a major drop in performance, AMD's x86-64 architecture worked fine, along with the new OS, optimizing everything so that such a drop never actually takes place.

Also congratulations should also go to ATI for delivering a quite stable 64-bit driver even though time has shown us that this is the area where it's mostly handicapped.

We really look forward to seeing the final version of WinXP x64 bit being released. Hopefully, by that time, we'll see many more applications ported and optimized for 64-bit computing.



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