AMD Athlon 64: the benchmarks

Summary:AMD’s Athlon 64 launch marks the dawn of the 64-bit desktop PC era. We evaluate the efficiency of the new CPU using over 100 benchmark tests.

With its 64-bit processor, AMD is right where it wants to be -- at the cutting edge of technological development. The Athlon 64 FX-51 may not always outperform Intel’s new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, which Intel distributed to some journalists specifically for comparisons such as this. However, AMD’s new desktop processors offer something that Intel does not: 64 bits. Don’t expect miracles from this technology: 64-bit may be double 32-bit, but programs do not necessarily run twice as fast. The advantage of 64-bit technology is the size of the addressable memory. Whereas 32-bit processors cannot use any more than 4GB of memory effectively, the 64-bit AMD processors can handle up to 1 terabyte, providing a high degree of future-proofing. But who needs more than 4GB in a desktop PC? (A question frequently asked by Intel). Even now the operating system is held back by 32-bit technology. With Windows, the directly usable memory is currently limited to 2GB per process. By cheating (Boot.ini-Switch /3GB), this can be extended to 3GB, but that’s as far as you can go. The average memory complement of today’s new PCs is about 512MB, with many observers expecting this to double for 2004. So Intel will not be offering a 64-bit processor for desktop PCs, as PR representatives at the recent IDF stressed: we’re in a period of transition; wait for the Prescott CPU; who needs 64-bit? Even so, at some point, the standard memory complement will exceed 4GB. And when it does, users will recall that it was AMD, rather than Intel, that set the pace. After all, the various extensions to Intel’s 32-bit processor architecture were little used at first, but are now widely adopted -- MMX, SSE and SSE2 are examples.

Topics: Hardware, Reviews

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