AMD today is releasing its new processor, the Athlon 64 FX-57, which takes its place atop the company's high-end single-core chip line. The new chip will cost a hefty sum--$1031 in quantities of 1000--but our tests show it offers top-notch gaming performance for enthusiasts and power users.
The new chip runs at 2.8 GHz, versus the 2.6-GHz speed of the Athlon 64 FX-55 (priced at $827 in quantities of 1000), which previously was AMD's high-end single-core chip. Like the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 chips released in June, the Athlon 64 FX-57 is built using a 90-nanometer process for greater efficiency and lower manufacturing costs. The FX-57 also boasts a 1MB L2 cache and features a 2-GHz HyperTransport bus. While the platform still offers no support for DDR2 memory, it tops out at DDR533.
To use the new chip, you'll need a BIOS upgrade, but you won't need a new motherboard; it fits in any Athlon 64 board with the 939 socket.
Systems should be available now from vendors such as ABS, Alienware, Falcon Northwest, Polywell, Systemax, Voodoo PC, and more. No information was available on these systems at press time; for more details, check the vendors' sites.
We tested a reference system from AMD configured with the new chip; 1GB of DDR400 memory; a 10,000-rpm, 74GB Western Digital hard drive; an NVidia 6800 Ultra graphics card with 256MB of RAM; and Windows XP Professional. The unit earned a score of 116 on WorldBench 5, which ties for the second highest score on this benchmark with a previously tested AMD reference system using a 2.4-GHz dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ chip (the rest of the configuration is identical). It also bested the 107 average score of two previously tested systems with the Athlon 64 FX-55, as well as the 102 score of a reference Intel system using the 64-bit 3.73-GHz Pentium Extreme Edition chip.
Though the final score was the same on both the AMD FX-57 and X2 systems, results on the individual applications that make up WorldBench 5 varied considerably. As you might expect, the most dramatic differences were on our multitasking test and with multithreaded applications that can recognize and take advantage of multiple processors, such as Windows Media Encoder.
In the latter case, the system with the X2 chip beat the FX-57 machine by about a minute, completing the test in 4 minutes, 16 seconds versus the FX-57's 5 minutes, 18 seconds. The X2 PC performed even better in the multitasking test, where it took 6 minutes, 44 seconds to complete the tasks that took the FX-57 a significantly longer 8 minutes and 56 seconds to do.
However, the FX-57 system reversed that trend with Musicmatch Jukebox, besting the X2 unit by nearly a minute (6 minutes, 30 seconds versus 7 minutes, 27 seconds for the X2).The FX-57 machine also generally topped the X2 PC on other applications such as ACDSee PowerPack 5, and Winzip 8.1, but with less dramatic margins--the differences typically ranged from 5 percent to 10 percent.
In the gaming arena, it was no contest. The FX-57 system demonstrated its prowess on Unreal Tournament, where it produced 185 frames per second at 1024 by 768 with 32-bit color and 181 fps with 1280 by 1024 at 32-bit color. In contrast, the X2 system had 167 fps, the two FX-55 systems averaged 151 fps, and the 3.73-GHz Pentium EE system had 148 fps at 1024 by 768 resolution with 32-bit color.
Overall, this is not a processor for the masses--the high price alone will keep it out of most people's reach. But gamers, enthusiasts, and power users who don't need a dual-core machine's multitasking power will enjoy its performance boost.