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AMD vs. Intel, Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up?

AMD vs. Intel, Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up? - PCSTATS
Abstract: Age has mellowed my thirst for speed, and my upgrade schedule has slowed to a yearly pace, but that doesn't mean I'm settling for any less. (Summer 2006)
Filed under: Editorial Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Intel / AMD Jun 14 2006   Colin Sun  
Home > Reviews > Editorial > Intel / AMD

Step 2: Heat and Reliability

Cooling has always been the one major area where Intel processors were always considered to be far superior to AMD's offerings... remember the days of AthlonXP's going up in smoke? While the Socket 775 Pentium 4 heatsink architecture offers more room to grow, allows for larger heatsinks to be installed, and a bit more scalable in the long run, AMD's not totally out of step either.

Previously in this PCSTATS Series

AMD vs. Intel - Which is the Better Processor Now?
(November 2008)

AMD VS Intel: What to Get? Which is Better?
(September 2007)

AMD Vs Intel: Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up?
(June 2006)

AMD vs Intel: It's An Eternal Struggle
(August 2002)

Comments and Feedback?

AMD has dramatically improved the shape, size and quality of heatsinks that it uses to keep Athlon64 processors running cool and quietly. With the de-emphasis of OEM processors, the company has better control over the retail heatsinks that come bundled with its Athlon64 processors, and hence the end user experience. So far, this generation of 'K8' heatsinks have been quiet running, and well designed so temperatures remain at acceptable levels.

To make things easier for the end user, heatsinks can be installed in any direction without damaging the processor. Back in the days of the socket A Athlon and AthlonXP CPU, if the heatsink was installed in the wrong direction you'd end up with a dead chip in under 4 seconds. In the unlikely event that the heatsink fan fails nowadays, that little tiny Athlon64 processor below will not cook itself to death. All current AMD processors employ thermal throttling which lowers the speed of the processor automatically should the CPU temperature rise too high.

On the whole, AMD and Intel are pretty even in thermal loads this year. From the consumers point of view it makes no difference if one processor or the other is used as both will operate reliably and quietly.

Step 3: Navigating Between DDR and DDR-2

Here's a little secret, on the whole DDR-2 RAM has been a bit of bust. Touted as the memory of the future, able to leap small buildings in a single bound for everything from videocards to motherboards.

It promised a lot and delivered little in the real world. Yet since the entire computer industry is shifting towards DDR-2 RAM, we're all resigned to the fact that it's here to stay until FB-DIMM and DDR-3 RAM break out in 2007/2008.

Of course DDR-2 memory isn't all bad, it offers a greater level of bandwidth between memory and processor, and that's a good thing. It's just that single-core Intel systems (the current largest segment consuming DDR-2 RAM) aren't very inspiring, and the wonderfully low timings associated with DDR memory have been cast aside for a pointless frequency game. There's a difference between PC2-6400 with high lanencies, and PC2-6400 with low latencies when it comes the benchmarks, and so far the latter has been sadly overlooked for far too long.

By the end of May, AMD's Socket AM2 Athlon64 processor will be running along on DDR-2. The socket AM2 Athlon64 isn't expected to demand a ton of bandwidth from the get-go, but rather benefit more from DDR-2 memory with tighter CAS latency timings. Unfortunately at the moment these types of parts are missing from the DDR2 memory equation so it's hard to offer commentary on where this will all be headed.

It's very likely that initial Socket AM2 Athlon64's will perform no better, or no worse than equivalently paced Socket 939 counterparts. Between now and then, perhaps AMD will have tweaked the memory controller to utilize more memory bandwidth, or DDR-2 memory latencies will have dropped somewhat. Like you, I'm still waiting to see.

The saga isn't yet written, and pre-release glimpses of Socket AM2 performance by way of Engineering Sample CPUs are only telling half the story. It will be interesting to see what happens, but certainly the prevalence of DDR-2 RAM is unrelenting.

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Contents of Article: Intel / AMD
 Pg 1.  AMD vs. Intel, Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up?
 Pg 2.  — Step 2: Heat and Reliability
 Pg 3.  Step 4: The Forgotten Factor is the Chipset
 Pg 4.  There once was a world of two desktop processors

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