AMD’s 90nm Winchester CPU


Rich’s Thoughts

AMD Athlon 64

I didn’t mean for this to seem like an anti-Intel article; Intel was the first to make the leap to 90nm technology, and being the first opens you up to both criticism and praise.

The issue with the Prescott has always been thermal, and to a lesser extent its lack of performance at rated speeds. I also feel that the technology involved was a little before its time as very few programs are actually optimized to use the extra pipelines and SSE3 technology.

I have personally owned three Prescott CPUs, a 2.8 and a 3.2GHz in the socket 478 and an unlocked testing sample in the socket T which I run at 3.6 GHz (This will be the subject of a future article); both socket 478 CPUs overclocked extremely well in my opinion. I ran the 2.8E 24/7 at 3.5GHz (until its untimely demise at my hands while trying to remove the IHS), I have also had the 3.2E clocked over 4GHz and run it at 3.71 GHz 24/7 without issue. In my opinion Prescott CPUs overclock extremely well and handle multitasking better than any AMD CPU I have ever used.

The only issue that I had, as did most everyone else who purchased a Prescott, was cooling. With the stock Intel HSF both 478 Prescotts idled into the 50C range at rated speeds, eliminating any chance of overclocking without extreme cooling. Once on water though, both CPUs scaled very well, the problem with this obviously is cost. Extreme cooling costs money, sometimes a lot of it. From $50 for a top end air-cooled solution to well over $200 for a good water cooled system, the Prescotts were not very cost effective, and in no way justified their price to performance trade off.

So far I have to also say that Intel’s second generation 90nm CPU shows no signs of managing its thermal issues any better, even with an improved stock HSF. The CPU I have right now is clocked at 3.6GHz (multi-set to 18 and FSB at 200), and it idles at 53C!

I have been using a 130nm 3800+ Newcastle for about 4 months now, and while it is a very good processor, it doesn’t have near the multitasking ability of the Prescott. However, it simply flies during gaming. My issue with the Newcastle was the same as the Prescott, but to a far lesser extent. My 3800+ idled at 37-38C and easily broke 50C while under heavy load, limiting what it could achieve while air cooled.

After having the 3500+ Winchester for almost two weeks I am very impressed with this CPU. It incorporates all the positives of the Newcastle it replaces, with a huge drop in operating temperatures. While some people will complain that there is virtually no performance boost over the 130nm technology, the optimists amongst us will look at an AMD processor that was 10C cooler at 2.64GHz, running without a hiccup. My system had some limiting factors that I need to iron out, but I believe this CPU has even more headroom for overclocking.

Those of you that already have an AMD 130nm CPU will see little if any benefit from upgrading to the Winchester, but those of you who are looking for a very good processor to power your system until we see dual core some time next year need to look no further than AMD’s Winchester series.

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