AMD has taken a step forward when it comes to desktop performance, but one has to wonder what took Quad FX so long to come to market. It’s been on the table and openly talked about since May of 2006, and why it’s coming out the last week of November is beyond us. If you look through the smoke and mirrors of the marketing slides it’s obvious that no new technology is on the table. The NVIDIA 680a chipset is really not much more than a couple nForce 5XX series chipsets paired together on a single board. The processors are a little different due to the new package, but that shouldn’t take six months to bring to market. The end result is basically two FX-62 processors with a speed bump. Our test results showed this when we benchmarked the FX-74 against the FX-62 and the scores were basically doubled across the board.
By doubling the scores across the board AMD was able to catch up to Intel’s latest quad-core processors in a number of benchmarks, but it’s clear from our use of both system that Intel still has the lead when it comes to ‘quad’ platforms. When it comes to pricing AMD has really slashed prices on their FX-70 series processor pricing. Let’s just say the prices you see below are hundreds less that what they were originally going to be released at and that’s a good thing for consumers.
Since all the FX-70 series processors are unlocked it would seem that the best value would be with the FX-70 pair of processors. The processors would run $599 the ASUS 680a motherboard would run $349 and a couple 1GB kits of memory would set you back the same as what a single Intel QX6700 would cost and the platform would support upcoming K8L ‘Greyhound’ processors from AMD. What it all comes down to is really taste and what you like. The Quad FX platform will support awesome features like Quad SLI, 12 SATA hard drives and 8 USB devices, which is something no Intel desktop board can match. Right now only ASUS will offer a board supporting Quad FX, so don’t think you’ll be able to shop around for different 680a boards.
Something that can’t be overlooked is the power consumption on the Quad FX systems. These systems run hot! Our GeForce 8800GTX graphics cards would idle at 70C in the case and while we would like to report processor temperatures it seems that isn’t possible right now. NVIDIA says their nTune software won’t work because ASUS doesn’t have the BIOS correctly setup, so we can’t tell you what these CPU’s are running as neither ASUS nor NVIDIA has a utility that works. With three fans on the motherboard and two more on the CPU’s and GPU’s the system is tad loud even with Cool & Quiet enabled in the BIOS. If there was a way to hook up the Corsair Nautilus 500 water cooler it would have been done, but since the new socket has different heat sink mounting brackets it’s not possible.
The launch of the FX-70 series of processors could mean the end of the FX-60 series, but AMD isn’t sure on what is going to happen. AMD does stand firmly behind multi-CPU systems and believes that they are the way of the future and where the market is headed. With Microsoft Windows Vista coming out and supporting NUMA technology the Quad FX platform should see better performance numbers than what we have shown on Windows XP Professional, but benchmarking on Vista RC2 is a waste of time as what our readers will experience on the production version would be different.
Legit Bottom Line: Quad FX has arrived and closes the performance gap between AMD and Intel, but ultimately it’s nothing more than a stop gap till AMD K8L processors can arrive.