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 Testing dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ 

[CPU] Testing dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (English Version)

 


http://www.digital-daily.com/.


Quite recently, we received a flagship chip of the Athlon 64 X2 processor series marked 4800+, thanks to AMD representation office in the Ukraine. That is indeed one of the most powerful processors currently available on sale, but we found ourselves in a difficult position. What to test and how to test? On the one hand, all is clear - that is not the very first occurrence of dual-core processors in our test lab. But to run a comprehensive comparative test, we lacked similar chips by the competitor, there was no Intel's top processor. Our partners promised to help make the tests comprehensive, but two weeks passed, and the so needed processors have not yet arrived at our test lab. So, to keep the produced results up to date, we place the focus on Athlon 64 X2 4800+ and its architecture we compare it versus the single-core Athlon 64 3800+ and answer the question regarding its correct positioning of the series by the manufacturer. We'll compare it versus the competitor once the chance comes up.

In spring this year, AMD presented its dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors for desktop systems, almost a month after the announcement of their server dual-core Opteron. Originally, the line had four processors rated at 4200+, 4400+, 4600+, and 4800+. But the "biting" price for these chips and Intel's successful pricing policies compelled AMD to present a more affordable version - Athlon 64 X2 3800+. Currently, there are rumors in the Internet stating the product line has been complemented with the transitional Athlon 64 X2 5000+. Despite that, for now you can be a lucky owner of one of the five listed processors based on Manchester or Toledo cores, depending on the rating, which differ in the cache size.


Model
Clock speed, MHz
L2 cache size, K
Process technology
Core
Athlon 64 X2 4800+
2400
2 1024
90 nm
Toledo
Athlon 64 X2 4600+
2400
2 512
90 nm
Manchester
Athlon 64 X2 4400+
2200
2 1024
90 nm
Toledo
Athlon 64 X2 4200+
2200
2 512
90 nm
Manchester
Athlon 64 X2 3800+
2000
2 512
90 nm
Manchester

All the processors are made for Socket 939, offer 128 K L1 cache size per each core, integrated HyperTransport bus controller to run at 1 GHz, are able dissipating up to 110 W of power in the form of heat at the nominal supply voltage 1.35-1.40 V, as well as able sustaining safe heating up to a temperature no higher than 65C.

Let's recall the positioning of Athlon 64 X2 processors.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

In the opinion of the manufacturer, Athlon 64 X2 processors are aimed at advanced users and professionals who run several resource-intensive applications simultaneously, as well as those who use applications to digital content processing. Of course, the processors will easily cope with games, but using them for games makes little sense since modern games are still unable to make use of free threading, thus their several cores will not give any essential performance boost. As you see, the product line does not replace the gaming Athlon 64 FX but continues Athlon 64 with a more professional bias and targets future development of multithreading computations.

As regards the architectural features which we told of much elsewhere, all is visual enough and documented in "AMD Functional Data Sheet, 939-Pin Package" which can be found on the official web site.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

In Athlon 64 X2, each core offers own L2 cache, but the interface is common for both the memory and the HyperTransport bus. How do the cores manage not to impede one another when operating the memory and the system? Perhaps there is something important hidden under the common name Northbridge depicted on the presented diagram.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

The matter is in the Crossbar Switch which is an effective link between the core system query interface and the controllers of the memory bus and the HyperTransport bus. That is, it's just that which decides upon the most optimum switching of queries so that to minimize the competition for system resources among the cores. Besides, Crossbar Switch allows the cores to interact with one another without additional load upon the other subsystems. According to AMD's assurance, this linking architectural component almost does not affect the performance (as compared to the full-featured dual-processor architecture). That is proved by the practical research. Similar approach is positioned as most perfect as compared to the Intel Pentium D architecture, but today we have no chance to do a comparison.

Introduction to the processor

As was already mentioned, the processor is made for the Socket 939, so there is nothing special in the appearance as compared to single-core models.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Its belonging to the X2 series can be found only through the marking. In this case, it is very easy since the performance index 4800 is found in only AMD processors. With the 3800 model, things would be a bit more complicated - you can easily get mixed up if you are uncertain about the marking. The last two letters stand for the core packaged for the heat-spreader. On our processor, the CD means use of the Toledo core. The same ending will also be in the Athlon 64 X2 4400+ processor. The marking of other processors of the family will end with the BV, which confirms using the Manchester core. Since we have gone deep into the marking, let's decipher it completely because there is one nuance in it found.

So, what does the ADA4800DAA6CD stand for? With ADA all is clear - it is AMD Desktop Athlon 64. Then there goes the processor's performance index - 4800+. The letter D after the index says that the processors installs on Socket 939. The first letter A indicated the supply voltage 1.3-1.4V. But the second A may be confusing after reading the specifications since it points to the maximum core temperature 71C (seems like AMD have been overcautious). The number 6 means that the overall L2 cache size is 2048 K, the CD is already familiar to you.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

If you look at the processor from below, you won't be able to tell it apart from other Athlon 64 939 processors.

To satisfy our skepticism, we decided to verify the processor for compatibility. On the moment of running the tests, we had two more motherboards for Socket 939 - ASUS A8N-E and ASUS A8N-SLI, but in the end we failed to see the processor operation in the single-core version. Both boards had a rather fresh BIOS and took the processor for "a member of the family". Once after the system start-up, the "Device driver" reported that the system was dual-processor.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

We acquire the info on the processor itself using the already standard CPU-Z utility.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

As you can see, there is nothing unpredictable - CPU-Z of version 1.30 detected all the parameters correctly.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

A powerful processor needs a matching memory. Here are the settings which worked with Corsair CMX512-3200XLPRO modules.

Immediately after the easy assembly of the system, we decided to check how the new processor was heating up. We first used the Prime 95, but it was able to heat up the processor to merely 49C, which we found too little. The next step was S&M 1.7.3.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

This program works fined with multi-core processors, and when combined with SpeedFan it also keeps an operation log. It was able to heat the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ up to 52C (red graph). The power of the Thermaltake CL-P0200 cooling system is more than enough for the not so immensely heated processor. Shall we try overclocking it?


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

But the overclocking proved failing. The result was pretty middling - merely 2580 MHz, i.e. 180 MHz boost. That was the limit of stable operation, and the processor itself was able to start up at only 2700 MHz but failed to fully boot Windows XP up.

Test configuration:


Processors
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+
AMD Athlon 64 3800+
Cooling system
Thermaltake CL-P0200
Motherboard
ASUS A8N-SLI Premium
RAM
2 512 MB Corsair CMX512-3200XLPRO
Video Card
Gigabyte GV-66T128D GeForce 6600GT 128 MB
HDD
Samsung SP0812C
PSU
Chieftec HPC-420-102DF 420W
Operating system
Windows XP SP2 RU

As a competitor to the dual-core processor in question was the single-core Athlon 64 3800+ running at the same clock speed albeit with the twice as less L2 cache size.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Here are the wonderful Corsair CMX512-3200XLPRO memory modules which should unveil the processor's capabilities, but even at the nominal speed they heat up immensely.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Tests in normal conditions

As usual, we start with the synthetic benchmark SiSoftware Sandra 2005 - most popular and accessible.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Sandra did a fine job loading the second core thus attaining a doubled result. At the synthetics, we can easily see the doubling of performance (it's interesting to check its practical use). Interesting result was produced in the test of memory bandwidth - Athlon 64 3800+ took a 300 MB/s lead over the dual-core processor. We can't call it a shortcoming, although engineers at AMD still have something to work at. Quite probably, that may be a shortcoming of the benchmarking suite. We found it of little sense going deeper into other synthetic suites, so we are moving on to more practical tasks. We start with archiving (compression of a 1.3 GB Windows folder under standard settings).


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

At that, the leadership with a small gap is with the dual-core processor. On the one hand, the L2 cache size in Athlon 64 X2 4800+ is twice as much. But on the other hand, on the "idle" processor the operating system is able executing background processes thus handing the former over to the resource-intensive compression. We'll analyze later what can be done on the second core while the first one is busy doing a serious job , but for now we are moving on to multimedia content encoding.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

As we have repeatedly noted, the processor's clock speed matters more to the LAME codec. Since the contenders offer the same clock speeds, there is almost no performance difference.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

With video encoding, the situation is a bit different. All the codecs in the dual-core system acquired a performance boost, but the boost percentage depends on the individual capabilities of each. DivX, of both 5th and the 6th versions, as well as XviD are not originally optimized for multithreaded encoding, but having got "a single processor" that is not distracted to background tasks at their full disposal they accelerated operation. Even with the maximum priority of the codec, you could absolutely safely operate in the system, e.g. watch a film of surf the Internet, and that did not affect the speed of encoding. The multithreaded codecs Windows Media Encoder and DivX6 Helium gained a 60-80% performance boost. We can state that at the first part of positioning (digital content processing), Athlon 64 X2 proved expectations. Let's see how operation with 3D-modeling suites and CAD/CAM systems will accelerate.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

We have already noted some insusceptibility of SPECViewperf 8.0 to multi-core platforms, so the result proved positive albeit not impressive.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

The results for Cinebench are more interesting. Both systems coped well with rendering a test scene in the single-threaded (single-processor) mode at the same speed. But when set to the multiprocessor rendering mode, Athlon 64 X2 gained almost a doubled performance. The result is simply fantastic! Let's hope the result for other packages will be as impressive as that already produced since most of them have already long been optimized for running in multi-processor systems.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

We we a bit puzzled by the results for general-system suites PCMark'04 and PCMark'05. The thing is that memory test run with Athlon 64 3800+ resulted in system hang and we were unable to get rid of that in the end. Interestingly, the system was able to pass the whole series of tests run with S&M 1.7.3 but hung in the packages we were running. Besides, other produced results confirmed the opinion of some "raw" state of PCMark'05 (the recently released update should fix the issue, but it will appear after the tests are over).


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

We consolidated results for all the synthetic gaming packages by Futuremark into one graph since the totals for them are the same. In these benchmarking suites, the performance boost is either not seen or is negligible. So it is unlikely to expect noticeable performance boost in games. Anyway, we'll investigate the issue.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Aquamark3 repeats the above commented results.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

At Codecreatures Benchmark Pro, the performance boost is seen only on the graph and amounts to merely 2%.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

The same result is for GunMetal Benchmark.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

A more noticeable result in numeric terms was found in Quake 3, but with that high FPS rate it is almost not seen to the eye.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Nor the results of tests in most popular games have changed anything in favor of Athlon 64 X2. This processor is not for games. In fact, the manufacturer is not positioning it for gaming systems.

Multithreading or multitasking performance

We have already proved the propriety of using Athlon 64 X2 processors for video processing and in 3D modeling packages. There is one more side of positioning left to be checked. Will a system based on it be truly suitable for "advanced users and professionals who run several resource-intensive applications simultaneously"?

To start with, let's see what can be used to fully load such a powerful processor.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Start of 7-Zip 4.28 with standard settings is not able to provide a 100% load even to a single core, while the processor is only half-loaded.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Launch of LAME 3.96.1 codec gives a bit more load to the core, but the result is the same - the CPU is 50% loaded.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

The same 50% result is produced in WinRar 3.50.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Only through starting "two resource-intensive applications" like 7-Zip and WinRar we can provide a full load to the processor.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Only launch of heterogeneous processes - audio encoding with LAME and data compression with WinRAR allowed us to provide 100% load to Athlon 64 X2 4800+.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Simultaneous launch of all the three programs didn't change anything more except the run time of each particular application.

It was also interesting to watch the load upon the processor cores when encoding video.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

This is how the cores are loaded when DivX 5.2.1 codec is used for encoding. Upon repeated start-up of the program, the diagrams change a bit but the overall trend is unchanged - however strange that seems, both cores are participating (or the "Task Manager" is mistaken).


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

This is the result of loading upon the start of DivX 6.0.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

This is the multithreaded modification of the codec - DivX6 Helium generates two threads thus putting a full load upon the processor.

In the end, let's look at the figures which will show if it is possible to enjoy watching entertainment programs and work simultaneously on a modern PC.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

3DMark 2001SE is very demanding to the bandwidth and the processor performance, so we chose just that as an interpretation of the general-system test. As you can see, with two or more background processes running there is a twofold difference in results.

Another interesting point not depicted in the graphic form is the deceleration of one resource-intensive process run on a single-processor configuration. When launching LAME and 3DMark 2001SE, Windows XP gave the highest priority to the second, which resulted in a disastrous deceleration of encoding but good performance in the master application. That was not the case for a system based on Athlon 64 X2 4800+, since each application was given one core and LAME did not lose performance.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

3DMark'05 shows a more uniform result in the graphic part and interesting result in the processor part. It seems like Windows XP distributes load in different ways in the single-processor and dual-processor configurations. In the first case, it allocates maximum resources to the master task to the detriment of the background processes, and in the second case it tries to distribute load in a more uniform way.


Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Far Cry showed that Athlon 64 X2 copes very well at gaming while the system is busy with the remaining tasks. On the other hand, it is really hard to imagine a sound person runs a first-person shooter on top of audio/video encoding or archiving large volumes of data, albeit it is possible.

Final Words

Experimenting with a system using the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ left a lot of positive emotions. In a few words, that can be described like this: outstanding stability, high performance, perfect compatibility. At the same time, processors of this series do not suffer from overheating and are not demanding for the cooling performance. But prior to buying such a processor for your work system, we recommend that you should be aware of the tasks intended to make your life easier with it. If the computer is aimed at serious video processing tasks, processing huge volumes of data, mathematical computations or work in CAD/CAM systems, then Athlon 64 X2 would be a good investment.

We also remind you that Athlon 64 X2 processor offer a very important positive aspect - after the BIOS update they can be installed on any motherboard of matching processor socket. Now, to build up performance and make a "dual-processor" workstation, it suffices to replace the processor only. There will evidently be some users who would find such a replacement appealing. Perhaps somebody has already tried it...

There is also one unpleasant thing related to the high but gradually decreasing price for Athlon 64 X2. Despite the so bygone announcement and immediate presence of these processors in Moscow price lists, in the provinces dual-core processors are still a rarity, even the lower-end models.

We appreciate AMD representation office in the Ukraine for the Athlon 64 X2 specimen, ASUS A8N-SLI Premium motherboard, and Corsair CMX512-3200XLPRO memory modules presented for tests.

25.10.2005


: 13.01.2006
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