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~#~#~#~ The next generation is here! ~#~#~#~
** Preface **
Our computers,operating systems and software have been running on 32 bit technology for some time, rescently however a new technology has graced our table and 64 bit capabilities are arriving thick and fast.
The maunfacturers and developers of this 64 bit chip are AMD. They have a history of balancing technology with quality and price. Some of the notable predecessor have been the Duron chip range and the Athlon chip range where they cornered the market by producing reliable, fast and stable processors that were very competitively priced. Having ensured a firm position in the market place they have not sat on their laurels nor squandered there vast fortunes, but instead invested well into the future development and marketing of the next generation technologies. Forming a string of partnerships and co operation into the furthering of this technology they laid the foundation for the launch of this astounding piece of kit. Obtaining commitment from the likes of Microsoft,Navidia,MSI,Gigabyte and other giants they have ensure that what has not already arrived, will follow shortly.
** What is 64 bit technology and how does it work? **
Each processor has built into it minute registers which are used to store data. In the case of the 32 bit chip it is, 32 bit. Naturally in the case of the 64 bit processor it is indeed 64 bit. These registers are not be confused with cache (on-chip memory) which in the case of this chip is 1 meg L2, 256k L1 (pretty darn good). I don't want to boggle you with over complicated details, but surfice to say that the ability to have double capacity storage is very useful for huge data banks and similar although unlikely to have much advantage for the everyday home users. Also built into the chip is internal DDR memory controllers, a feature that until now has been a motherboard feature, the advantage here is speed and efficiency by reducing the amount of traffic (data) flowing in and out of the chip, often the cause of a bottle-neck. Hypertransport links are another new feature that enables this technology to out perform anything previously seen. These links provide a much wider bandwidth for allowing data to flow faster and smoother from various points.
** What's difference? **
Primarily the main difference is that it utilizes and performs with 64 bit technology as opposed the 32 bit technology its predecessors have been based on. Whilst using enhanced instruction sets previously designed by AMD (the info that tells the chip how to work),it access memory and stores/processes information in a totally different way. Another change from past processors is that the front-side bus(FSB) has been replaced by a dedicated memory bus and a HyperTransport link. The HyperTransport link operates at a frequency up to 1600MHz This new processor also incorporates hardware-enabled virus protection,this is designed to reduce the risk of virus."Cool‘n’Quiet technology" lowers the power consumption of the system when the high performance is not needed, another of AMD's special features for the 64.
** In real terms **
Certain applications may only see a slight increase in performance, yet the capabilities are hugely bigger. The general accessing of information and applications is permitted more quickly as is the processing of data and the transfer of information by utilizing several new technologies.
** Support **
AMD's home site (www.amd.com) offers technical information, sortware, faq's, contact information and technical support. I have always found answers to any questions or problems I have had in the past wre easily delt with by or via the site.
** Windows **
Fortunately, and possibly essentially, the 64 bit chips are backwards compatable. This means that whilst being geared to runing on a new 64 bit Operating system (yet to be released), they are also compatible with existing 32 bit OS's. In short terms, it will run with Win 95 upwards. The obvious benefit here is that it makes the transition to the new technology far smoother, allowing for gradual development of support, programmes, software and hardware without the need to start from scratch to utilize this new technology. Impressively this chip works in two modes,"Legacy" mode and "Long" mode. Legacy mode is where all 64 bit support is unused and the chip runs strictly as a 32 bit chip, essential for running on existing windows (32 bit window OS). Long mode has two sub catagories, Compatibility mode and 64 bit mode. As might sound obvious, 64 bit mode runs solely as a 64 bit chip, utilizing new OS's capabilities and the software written as 64 bit.Compatability mode enable the chip to benefit from the enhanced performance of a 64 bit OS whilst being able to operate 32 bit software, possibly games or other installed 32 bit software.
The new 64 bit Windows OS hasn't been released yet and may well not be seen until early next year. A beta version is however currently available from Microsoft and despite being far from what we can expect from the final release, the performance of my chip is massively impressive upon testing it out on this beta version. It is a 64 bit version of XP and can be obtained or downloaded from - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/64bit/downloads/upgrade.asp
** Drivers **
Drivers are being written and updated as you read, many are already available.AMD's site is compiling the latest ones and they can be found at - http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/DevelopWithAMD/0,,30_2252_875_10454,00.html
** Hardware **
In order to accommodate your new processor (chip), you'll need to purchase a corresponding motherboard. Already there are quite a few on the market, at least 10 tangible choices from a variety of manufacturers. When considering which board it's wise to consider your existing hardware, you'll need a board that has enough of the right kinds of slots to accommodate it all. You should then consider your possible future hardware purchases if you're thinking of future upgrades or additions. Look then towards the features offered by each board and their perspective costs, all the while bearing in mind what uses you require from your whole system. Make sure when you're looking at a specific board that you're confident it will support all your needs and indeed that the manufacturer is one you are confident and preferably familiar with. Often certain manufactures will have little "quirks" when it comes to their boards and with this being a very new technology it's not going to be easy to find someone who'll have learned by experience of just this chip. The future of compatible boards is bright as the on-chip features have simplified requirements on a motherboard.
Next to address is the issue of such items as graphics cars, sound cards and any other such items. Research compatibility and support. My own experience has shown that certain Raid cars are disliked and that you need to be sure of effective commitment by manufacturers to be offering future 64 bit drivers.
** Performance **
Here's where I find myself glowing with pleasure. Despite relatively low expectations on 32 bit operating systems, I find immediately that performance compared to my previous 2400XP processor on a MSI Nforce2 motherboard is exceptional. I see programs loading in half the time, installations taking half the time and my graphics and gaming potential being stretched to the maximum my graphics card will run. Multi-tasking is a breeze and no matter what I throw at it in terms of hard work it copes beautifully and runs as cool as a cucumber(processor does not get hot). Taking it one step further and testing it on the beta 64 bit windows I was astounded. My initial decision was edged with intrepidation due to the unknown content of the beta version I had, but temptation gave way and I just had to see what this chip was really capable of. I have to say that I still really don't know. The performance was brilliant, facst precise and very stable but also I was very aware that I was still barely pushing it's capabilities. When a good range of 64 bit software is available I have no doubt that this chip will leave all existing chips/technology standing. I find myself hoping from foot to foot with impatience whilst waiting for the release of any sort of game that will do this processor justice. Looking into mt mystic ball I foretell of a gaming experience unequal to anything available now, and indeed games will be taken to "the next level".
** Benchmarks **
Here's where researching the chip using the available benchmarks gets confusing and hard work. If you want to really know what you are buying, checking out benchmarks will enevitably be on your list of to-do's. The first pit-fall is that they are being bench marked against a variety of chips that are quite simply not 64 bit chips at all or not true 64 bit chips. Add to this the fact that all or most of the software being used is not 64 bit, or is 64 bit but running on 32 bit OS's (hence chip is performing in legacy mode- as a 32 bit chip). Even having taken all that into account, there are still other factors such as the other hardware that is being used in the benchmarks (graphics cards etc). Assuming we allow for all of these factors the benchmarks still seem unrealistic and to be honest....not worth the notepads they were written on!! Also be warey of "comparisons" made between chips and or their perspective compatible motherboards. I have viewed some very eliquant and detailed comparisons that seem to make alot of sense...however despite being on my most trusted sites I should point out that they are comparisons made of specifications and cost, not on a single moment of running experience. Specifications, technical info and prices may say a lot on paper, but the proof of the pudding is always in the tasting !!
I did make my own small performance test by using SIS mark 2003, firstly on my original set up (specs further down), and again having exchanged my motherboard and processor, finally finishing with the new set up and the beta version of a 64 bit operating system. The results followed - Origonal set up - score ;6300 New set up 0n 32 bit OS - score ; 10000 New set up + 64 OS - score; 14000. The significance of the latter test is that it is still using 32 bit software. Higher scores should theoretically be possible with enhanced graphics cards.
** Price **
Having purchased both my new chip and the compatible motherboard from teckheads, I got about the best deal around. Paying £310 for both including next day delivery, £210 and board,£90. I spent 4 weeks having already researched this startling new product, comparing prices and finding availability. The price I paid was about the same as a retailer buying direct from AMD in bulk..not bad eh? Something to consider is the fluctuating prices of computer hardware and that although prices enevitably fall, I think in the case of the range of 64 bit chips, we can expect to see a marked price increase coinciding with the release of the new windows 64 bit operating system. Also to consider is the fact that looking around teckheads offered the best price/deal around. Almost all other quotes I got involved pre-ordering and price tags starting from £285 right up to £385 !! They might sound outrageous, but these prices are pretty equivalent to new chip prices for freshly released technologies or ranges by other manufacturers. The price I paid for the chip was as retail, which means it comes with full warranty along with the fan and heat sink). Limited availability is also a factor and few vendors actually stock them and many can only try and order them in,offering no gaurentees with regards to you obtaining one.
When planning my purchase I looked at and took into account the laternative chips available. Having briefly looked at INTEL's option and discounted them very hastily (design/performance/cost and the fact that one has already been withdrawn from the market due to problems), I looked at all of AMD's range. There are two lesser processors available for a minute price decrease, discounted for the simply reason a few less quid = alot less chip. The higher end available increased fair proportionally in price, but went beyond my budget and needs, right up to the fx versions where prices topped £500.
** What I'm running and observations **
Navidia Ti 4800 se graphics card, MSI K8T NEO motherboard(encorperating 10/1000 LAN,SIS 5.1 sound), 1 gig DDR 333 memory, 200 GIG H/D, Lighton DVD writer, Lighton CD writer, Lighton CD reader, Mitsubishy DVD ROM,UDMA 133 Raid card, 10/100 LAN card.
After exchanging my MSI Nforce2 motherboard and 2400XP processor for the above mentioned substitutes I immediately found the whole system out performed anyhting acheivable in it's perviouse incarnation. Vastly more responsive, I found new limitations pertaining only to the operating system and the graphics card.
I have not yet found any compatability issues, but with limited experiance to date it would be neglegent to assume there will be none in the future.
Temprature is highly noticable and I've found my new aquasition runds as cool as a cucumber in a deep freeze!! I suspect that not only the chip desgn and new technology aided the running temperature, but also it's ability to overclock only when needed. The fan and heatsink design is also notably new and improved.
** Extra info **
CPU (central processing unit) = chip = processor OS = operating system (such as windows) Benchmarks = series of tests (usually software) designed to compare performances and/or capabilities of different makes/brands of the same type of hardware. Beta version = Trial version, not yet for general sale.
** Summary **
Most definately the way forward, combining an upgrade to existing technologies with a bright and expending horizon. The price is right as long as you shop around and the stability and nature of this chip is such that it will be an upgrade that will see you well into the next stage of computor developement. For gamers it is absolutely the only way to go. A huge round of applause for the latest sucess story in AMD's processor deveopement and production. I felt that for a new and pending performance technology I paid a small price that was worthy of a far higher price tag.
What a laugh I had reading this review. The new words the reviewer has made up....intrepidation rather than trepidation...runing not running.....surfice not suffice, allows me to update my lexicon. The constant use of "perspective" when he means "prospective", not knowing that "there" refers to a place whereas "their" refers to possession. The reviewer does not want to "boggle" us with science, prbably because he does not really understand it himself. He is great at making up a story from the specifications of the chip, but obviously does not really understand the technology. Someone tell him that a 64 bit chip is not "double" the size of a 32 bit but 4294967296 times the size!
danielhill101 25.08.2004 00:17
Thanks! Just bought one of these, waiting to get the rest of the computer though! Great review. Dan x