Introduction

After months of waiting AMD enthusiasts finally have another option available for their processor selection -- Socket 939. As of today, AMD is releasing the following four processors:

AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 (939-pin)
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (939-pin)
AMD Athlon 64 3700+ (754-pin)
AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (939-pin)

Although these processors are based on a new socket and core design there really isn't that much that has changes. The memory controller is still on the die, but the socket 939 processors do not require you to use registered memory in your system.  By running standard unbuffered moduleswe are expecting to see a performance gain in the memory bandwidth along with lower memory pricing. One of the other major changes is the HyperTransport link has been bumped from 800MHz to 1GHz. This increase translates into an increase from 6.4 GB/s to 8 GB/s on the HT bandwidth.  Now that you know what is coming out today and what the major changes are we can look at the CPU we are testing today -- the 3800+ (939-pin).

939-PIN A64 Tech Specs:

The new 939-Pin 3800+ & the old 940-Pin FX-53 :

With the processors flipped over it can be noticed that the 939 pin processor is indeed missing one pin, but also has the pins arranged differently.

CPU-Z shots of the 2.4GHz Socket 939 NewCastle in action:

Everything looks good when viewing the processor under CPU-Z version 1.22!

Now that you know what processor we are looking at and how this is just a basic speed increase let's take a look at some real numbers!

The Test Processors:

Individual Test Systems:

Testing Procedure :

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows XP Professional build 2600 with Service Pack 1A and DirectX 9.0b. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. No overclocking was done on the video card durning any of this review. We did disable the Firewire, and lan features if found in the BIOS menu for all the testing completed during this review.

Now for the results!

Memory Bandwidth Testing:

Everest Version 1.1:

Everest 1.1 is a professional system information, diagnostics and benchmarking program for Win32 platforms. It extracts details of all components of the PC. It also tests the actual read and write speeds of your memory to give a fairly accurate look of true memory performance.

ScienceMark 2.0 Beta:

ScienceMark 2.0 is different from other benchmarks, in a sense the benchmark tests a series of different memory bandwidth algorithms. To top it all off the assembly source for these copy routines is available online to help assure the benchmark is not biased towards any one platform in particular.

Results:It's fairly obvious that the AMD A64 processors with the memory controller on the CPU currently are tops in the memory bandwith benchmarking. The AMD A64 3800+ has the best memory bandwidth and makes sense since the 940-Pin A64 FX's require the use of registered modules. Since registered modules require registry chips it does impact the memory bandwidth slightly.

Synthetic Testing:

FutureMark; 3dmark2001 SE, Build 330:

Results:The Socket 939 AMD Athlon 64 3800+ takes the the lead for both Intel and AMD mainstream processors! When it comes to the enthusiast line it beats out the current Intel EE's and falls right inbetween the AMD Socket 940 FX-51 and FX-53 processors. Not a bad showing for the ever popular Futuremark benchmarks.

Massive Development; AquaMark3:

The AquaMark3 executes a complete state-of-the-art game engine and generates 3D scenes designed to make the same demands on hardware as a modern game. The utilized game engine, the krass™ Engine, has been used in Aquanox and AquaNox 2: Revelation as well as in the upcoming RTS Spellforce by Phenomic Game Development. AquaMark3 utilizes recent hardware features of the new DirectX 9 API, such as PixelShader 2.0, while staying fully backward compatible to DirectX 8 and 7 graphics hardware.

Results:AquaMark 3 showed once again that the Socket 939 3800+ processor performs between the FX-51 and FX-53 socket 940 processors. Looks like we might be seeing a trend here in testing already! Overall the Intel processors faired better in AquaMark3 with the Intel 3.4EE leading the group of eleven CPU's.

SuperPi 1.1e :

SuperPi calculates the number Pi in this raw number crunching benchmark. The benchmark is fairly diverse and allows the user to change the number of digits of Pi that can be calculated. In this benchmark we ran SuperPi to 4 million places.

Results:The AMD A64 FX-53 passes up all of the other processors during Super Pi testing, but finishing 4 seconds later was the AMD A64 3800+. The 3.4GHz Intel Prescott came in a full eight seconds after the the socket 939 CPU.

Let's move on to some more benchmarks.

Professional Testing:

MAXON; CINEBENCH 2003:

CINEBENCH 2003 is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D R8. The tool is set to deliver accurate benchmarks by testing not only a computer's raw processing speed but also all other areas that affect system performance such as OpenGL, multithreading, multiprocessors and Intel's new HT Technology. Again, higher Frames/Second and lower rendering time in seconds equal better performance.

 

Case Lab CFD Solver:

The benchmark testcase is the AGARD 445.6 aeroelastic test wing. The wing uses a NACA 65A004 airfoil section and has a panel aspect ratio of 1.65, taper ratio of 0.66, and a quarter-chord sweep angle of 45º. This AGARD wing was tested at the NASA Langley Research Center in the 16-foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel and is a standard aeroelastic test case used for validation of unsteady, compressible CFD codes. The CFD grid used to model this problem consists of 67,435 nodes and 366,407 tetrahedral elements.

 

Professional Testing:

FutureMark; Bapco SYSmark2004:

SYSmark2004 provides an application-based benchmark that accurately reflects usage patterns for business users in the areas of Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity.

The overall combined rating of each CPU:

Results:Although the higher end "enthusiast" CPU's (EE and FX-XX) have the lead the Prescott processors command a respectable finish.

ScienceMark 2.0 Beta:

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. For the Memory Testing, higher numbers represent better performance. On the remaining tests, lower seconds represent better performance.

Primordia "calculates the Quantum Mechanical Hartree-Fock Orbitals for each electron in any element of the periodic table." We ran the benchmark on default using Argon as our element.

Game Testing:

NovaLogic; Comanche 4:

The Comanche 4 benchmark demo is a unique benchmark as it represents a real-world gaming experience. It contains the single player Eagle's Talon mission from the game as well as a detailed cinematic. This DirectX 8.1 benchmark demo measures your system's performance in the standard frames per second format.

Results:Once again the 3800+ falls inbetween the 940-pin FX-XX CPU's.

Epic Games; Unreal Tournament 2003:

Using the full installation of Unreal Tournament 2003 along with the newest patch gives us a very nice real world benchmark! We also used [H]ardOCP's UT2003 Benchmarking utility version 2.1. A resolution of 1024x768 was tested in Direct3D on the built-in CPU test.

Results:When using the built in Asbestos demo we found that the 3800+ processor was the second fastest of the bunch!

Overclocking:

From our expierence the "pre-release" sample we get for testing are usually the first processors off the line and don't over clock too well. In this situation the motherboard we are using (the ASUS A8V) still had some pre-production issues being worked out. By this I mean the BIOS wasn't yet perfected and an example of this was the many BIOS's i went though the week before the Socket 939 launch! The overclocking was done a couple weeks ago on BIOS version 1003, while our testing was done on version 1005. Time constraints kept us from using the latest version for overclocking.


Default Settings


Maximum Overclock

At default voltages (1.50V) the 3800+ could easily overclock up to 219MHz FSB before the system would become unstable under heavy loads. After cranking the voltage up a bit to 1.65V we were able to hit 223MHz FSB before we started having issues with the video card. After some investigation it was determined that the AGP Bus was not locked on the board. The Via K8T800 Pro chipset supports a locked AGP/PCI Bus, but our BIOS lacked support for it and it wasn't not enabled by default.

K8T800 Pro @ 74MHz (QDR)

When we fired up Everest v1.1 to monitor what our system was doing we quickly found that the chipset was running at 74MHz when we were overclocked to 223MHz FSB. With this found out our overclocking came to a quick end. It's pointless to drop the multiplier since the AGP bus will be running unlocked & we'd encounter the same problem above 223MHz FSB. (of course we still tried)

All in all we were able to overclock the AMD A64 3800+ Socket 939 processor 276MHz over default on a platform that has not yet matured! While this is not spectacular it's nothing to complain about! Once we have a matured BIOS or another board that has a locked PCI Bus we will have to give the 3800+ another chance and maybe give it some watercooling!

Conclusion:


Socket 939!!


Our Test System On The Bench

Nathan Kirsch's Thoughts:

The Socket 939 processor bring to the table the true NewCastle core as well as dual channel memory for the main stream AMD Athlon 64 processors. This is something enthusiasts have been asking for since the single channel 754-pin platforms first came out many months ago. While the advantages of dual channel memory is minimal the new core should allow more head room for AMD to ramp up the frequencies. On another bright note the socket 939 platform is that we have seen it slated on the road maps into 2006! Therefore you shouldn't have to worry about your socket choice becoming obsolete within 6-12 months. Think of the Socket 939 being the replacement for Socket 462, which has been around since 2000 and still has new chipsets hitting the market for it more than four years later.

There are many AMD enthusiasts running Barton 2500+'s that have skipped the Socket 754 and Socket 940 CPU's due to projected life span of the sockets and have been waited on the Socket 939 platforms. For those of you that fit this category you might be more interested in the "budget" priced 3500+ processor ($500). There is large jump in performance over your old Barton core and you will also be gaining 64 bit technology. When the AMD Athlon 64's first came out support was limited, but in recent times we have seen more 64 bit drivers hit the market, which makes it a feature that separates AMD from Intel and many consumers are interested in.

AMD Socket 939 1KU (in 1,000-unit quantities) Pricing:

As far as pricing is concerned AMD has priced the processors at what we would consider relatively high prices. ($500 for the 3500+ and $720 for the 3800+) While the prices on the latest and greatest CPU's is always high this was honestly a bit higher than we first thought. Part of this goes back to AMD's one and only FAB for all their processors. Since they only have one location to produce processors they are cranking out several socket types the manufacturing costs must be higher than Intel's entire Socket 478 design. On a bright note the NewCastle core is smaller than the Clawhammer and eventually we should see pricing lower once these processors begin to ramp up. It is also likely that AMD will introduce socket 939 processors rated lower than 3500+, just like AMD did when they launched the 2800+ and 3000+ socket 754 processors after the initial launch of that platform.

Overall the Socket 939 platform seems to be a great upgrade for those who have been holding for it and are running on an older platform. If you are currently running a Socket 754 processor there is less than a 5% gain on the new socket, so save up your money for an upgrade of a different sort!

For those of you who are holding off to see what numbers the upcoming Alderwood and Grantsdale are offering you wont have to wait too much longer. But keep in mind that while the Alderwood boards are offering PCI Express, DDR2 memory, integrated WIFI these hardware changes that are going to make for some large expenses that may be hard to explain to your other half! Hey, we'd rather have you here reading our articles rather than in divorce court!

Legit Bottom Line:

The AMD Socket 939 platform has finally arrived & the performance of the AMD Athlon 64 3800+ is greater than that of the majority of the leading mainstream and enthusiast Intel processors.