AMD has finally incorporated a DDR2 memory controller to AMD64 CPUs. The new DDR2-capable AMD64 CPUs use a new socket, AM2. In this review we benchmarked Athlon 64 X2 5000+, which is a dual-core Athlon 64 running at 2.6 GHz and supporting DDR2 memories. We are going to compare it to Athlon 64 X2 4600+ (which runs at 2.4 GHz) and Athlon FX-60 (a dual-core Athlon 64 FX running at 2.6 GHz). Check it out.
Since it is based on a new pinout, you will need to replace your motherboard by a socket AM2 one if you want to use DDR2 memories with Athlon 64.
The memory controller integrated on AM2 CPUs can support DDR2-533, DDR2-667 and DDR2-800 memories. The problem, however, is how the memory bus clock is achieved. Instead of being generated through the CPU base clock (HTT clock, which is of 200 MHz), it divides the CPU internal clock. The value of this divider is half the value of the CPU multiplier.
For example, an AMD64 CPU with a clock multiplier of 12x will have a memory bus divider of 6. So this CPU will work at 2.4 GHz (200 MHz x 12) and its memories will work at 400 MHz (DDR2-800, 2,400 MHz / 6). Keep in mind that DDR and DDR2 memories are rated with double their real clock rate.
The problem is when the CPU clock multiplier is an odd number. For an AM2 CPU with a clock multiplier of 13x, theoretically its memory bus divider would be of 6.5. Since the AMD64 memory bus doesn’t work with “broken” dividers, it is rounded up to the next higher number, seven in this case. So while this CPU will work at 2.6 GHz (200 MHz x 13), its memory bus will work at 371 MHz (742 MHz DDR) and not at 400 MHz (800 MHz DDR), making the CPU to not achieve the maximum bandwidth the DDR2 memory can provide.
This is the case of Athlon 64 X2 5000+. As it works internally at 2.6 GHz multiplying its HTT clock by 13x, it can access memory only up to 742 MHz and not 800 MHz.
Here are some examples:
|CPU Internal Clock||CPU Multiplier||Memory Divider||Memory Bus|
|2.8 GHz||14x||7||800 MHz|
|2.6 GHz||13x||7||742 MHz|
|2.4 GHz||12x||6||800 MHz|
|2.2 GHz||11x||6||733 MHz|
|2 GHz||10x||5||800 MHz|
|1.8 GHz||9x||5||720 MHz|
|1.6 GHz||8x||4||800 MHz|
As mentioned, Athlon 64 X2 5000+ is a dual-core CPU running at 2.6 GHz, achieved by multiplying its 200 MHz base clock by 13. It has two 512 KB L2 memory caches, one for each core. The other dual-core AMD CPUs we reviewed recently and included in this benchmark were Athlon 64 X2 4600+, which runs at 2.4 GHz and has two 512 KB L2 memory caches, and Athlon 64 FX-60, which runs at 2.6 GHz and has two 1 MB caches. Both are based on socket 939 platform.
The comparison between Athlon 64 X2 5000+ and Athlon FX-60 will be very interesting, since both run at the same clock rate, but 5000+ supports DDR2 and FX-60 supports regular DDR – but with a bigger cache.
Also, as we explained, even though Athlon 64 X2 5000+ supports DDR2-800 memories, its memory bus works at 742 MHz and not at 800 MHz.
In Figure 4, you can see the complete specs from the CPU we reviewed. It is very important to note that several websites posted wrong specs for Athlon 64 X2 5000+, since they were all speculating about the specs for this CPU as no real product was available before today.
We didn’t compare these CPUs with Intel counterparts (namely Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition) because unfortunately Intel didn’t provide us samples for reviewing. A pity.
[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]
During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the processor being tested and the motherboard, as socket AM2 CPUs require a new motherboard.
- Socket 939 Motherboard: MSI K8N Diamond Plus (BIOS 1.12, December 22nd, 2005).
- Socket AM2 Motherboard: ASUS M2N32-SLI De Luxe
- Memory: Two Corsair CMX1024-3500LLPRO modules with 1 GB each, installed on DDR Dual Channel configuration (2-3-2-6 timings) for socket 939 CPUs.
- Memory: Four Corsair CM2X512-8500 modules with 512 MB each, installed on DDR2 Dual Channel configuration (using 4-4-4-12 timings) for socket AM2 CPUs.
- Hard Drive: Maxtor DiamondMax 9 Plus (7,200 rpm, 40 GB, ATA-133).
- Video Card: XFX GeForce 7800 GTX.
- Video resolution: 1024x768x32@85Hz.
- Power Supply: OCZ ModStream 520 W.
- Windows XP Professional installed using NTFS
- Service Pack 2
- DirectX 9.0c
- NVIDIA video driver version: 84.21
- NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI X16 driver version: 7.15
- All motherboard drivers were installed
- SYSmark2004 – Patch 2
- PCMark05 Professional 1.1.0
- Cinebench 9.5
- 3DMark06 Professional 1.0.2
- Quake 4 – Patch 1.2
We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.
[nextpage title=”Overall Performance: SYSmark2004″]
We measured the overall performance of the CPUs included in this review using SYSmark2004, which is a program that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.
The benchmarks are divided into two groups:
- Internet Content Creation: Simulates the authoring of a website containing text, images, videos and animations. The following programs are used: Adobe After Effects 5.5, Adobe Photoshop 7.01, Adobe Premiere 6.5, Discreet 3ds Max 5.1, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Macromedia Flash MX, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9, McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Winzip 8.1.
- Office Productivity: Simulates the use of an office suite, i.e., simulates sending e-mails, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. The following programs are used: Adobe Acrobat 5.05, Microsoft Office XP SP2, Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1, NaturallySpeaking 6, McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Winzip 8.1.
This software delivers several results, all of them using a specific SYSmark2004 unit. First we have a SYSmark2004 overall score. Then we have a group result for each batch listed above. And for each batch, we have specific results: 3D Creation, 2D Creation and Web Publication for Internet Content Creation and Communication, Document Creation and Data Analysis for Office Productivity.
We were eager to know what performance gain an average user would have by using a dual-core Athlon 64 instead of a single-core one. The results you can see on the chart below.
While the overall SYSmark2004 score for Athlon 64 X2 5000+ (2.6 GHz) using the new socket AM2 was 11.59% greater than the one achieved by Athlon 64 X2 4600+ (2.4 GHz) and 33.33% greater than the one achieved by the single-core Athlon 64 3800+ (2.4 GHz). Athlon 64 FX-60, which runs at the same clock rate but has a greater L2 cache, achieved the same overall score.
Athlon 64 X2 5000+ also has achieved the same performance as Athlon 64 FX-60 on Internet Content Creation batch and Office Productivity batch. For Internet Content Creation Athlon 64 X2 5000+ was 8.95% faster than Athlon 64 X2 4600+ and 53.60% faster than Athlon 64 3800+. And for Office Productivity, the new Athlon 64 X2 5000+ was 15.03% faster than Athlon 64 X2 4600+ and 15.70% faster than Athlon 64 3800+.
Athlon FX-60 was faster than Athlon 64 X2 5000+ on two some segments: document creation (6.37%) and data analysis (3.94%). Athlon 64 X2 5000+ was faster than Athlon 64 FX-60 on communication benchmark (6.34%). On all other segments the two CPUs achieved the same results.
[nextpage title=”Processing Performance: PCMark05 Professional”]
PCMark05 Professional measures the system performance by running several tests. We selected two batches for our comparisons, System and CPU.
The System batch performs the following tests: HDD XP Startup, Physics and 3D, 2D Transparent Window, 3D Pixel Shader, Web Page Rendering, File Decryption, 2D Graphics Memory – 64 lines, HDD General Usage and three multithreading tests.
The CPU batch performs the following tests: File Compression, File Decompression, File Encryption, File Decryption, Image Decompression, Audio Compression and two multithreading tests.
The results are given in a PCMark05 specific unit.
On System batch Athlon 64 X2 5000+ achieved a similar performance to Athlon 64 FX-60, being 3.18% faster than Athlon 64 X2 4600+ and 35.96% faster than Athlon 64 3800+.
On CPU batch Athlon 64 X2 5000 achieved a similar performance to Athlon 64 FX-60 as well, being 8.94% faster than Athlon 64 X2 4600+ and 53.17% faster than Athlon 64 3800+.
[nextpage title=”Rendering Performance: Cinebench 9.5″]
Cinebench 9.5 is based on the 3D software, Cinema 4d. It is very useful to measure the performance gain given by having more than one CPU installed on the system when rendering heavy 3D images.
This software provides five results, Rendering 1 CPU, which measures the rendering performance using just one CPU, Rendering x CPUs, which measures the rendering performance using all CPUs available on the system, Cinema 4D shading, OpenGL Software Lighting and OpenGL Hardware Lighting. Since we were interested in measuring the rendering performance, we are going to compare the “Rendering x CPUs” results from all CPUs (“Rendering 1 CPU” in the case of Athlon 64 3800+).
Here Athlon 64 X2 5000+ also has achieved the same performance as Athlon 64 FX-60, being 8.22% faster than Athlon 64 X2 4600+ and 100% faster than Athlon 64 3800+.
[nextpage title=”3D Performance: 3DMark06 Professional”]
3DMark06 is the latest version of 3DMark franchise, measuring Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We run this software on its default configuration (1280×1024 resolution with no image quality settings enabled), checking the CPU batch results for comparison.
To be honest, 3D performance nowadays depends much more on the video card used than on the system CPU. Athlon 64 X2 5000+ achieved the same performance level of Athlon 64 FX-60 and Athlon 64 X2 4600+, but was 15.59% faster than Athlon 64 3800+.
When comparing the results for the CPU tests alone, Athlon 64 X2 5000+ achieved a performance similar to Athlon 64 FX-60’s but was 5.53% faster than Athlon 64 X2 4600+ and 103.06% faster than Athlon 64 3800+. Once again, this shows how the improvement on CPU performance won’t probably reflect on a higher 3D performance.
[nextpage title=”3D Performance: Quake 4″]
We ran Quake 4 multiplayer demo id_demo001 on 1024x768x32 with no image quality settings enabled. We run it four times and the results shown on the chart is an arithmetic average of the collected data. The results are in frames per second. For more information on how to use Quake 4 to benchmark a PC, read our tutorial on this subject.
On Quake 4 Athlon 64 X2 5000+ achieved the same performance level of Athlon 64 FX-60, being 8.61% faster than Athlon 64 X2 4600+ and 16.74% faster than Athlon 64 3800+.
We were able to put the Athlon 64 X2 5000+ base clock at 220 MHz, a 10% increase on the CPU clock. We could only achieve this result after increasing the CPU voltage to 1.3375 V (the CPU default voltage is 1.31 V). We could put it running at a higher clock rate, but the system was unstable. We didn’t push overclocking too much, so with more patience and playing with other settings you may achieve better results than we did.
With this overclocking PCMark05 scores increased 5.02% for the system batch and 9.35% for the CPU batch.
We didn’t see any performance improvement by the use of DDR2 memories instead of DDR. In fact, Athlon 64 FX-60 and Athlon 64 X2 5000+ achieved the same performance level in all benchmarks we conducted, except on three SYSmark2004 segments: document creation (where Athlon 64 FX-60 was 6.37% faster), data analysis (where Athlon 64 FX-60 was 3.94% faster) and communication (where Athlon 64 X2 5000+ was 6.34% faster).
Memory bandwidth measured with Sandra Lite 2007, which we didn’t include in the main body of our review, was of 7,914 MB/s, an impressive mark compared to previous AMD64 CPUs, where the maximum theoretical memory bandwidth was of 3,200 MB/s or 6,400 MB/s when using dual channel. However, as we were using DDR2-800 memories in dual channel, it should be somewhere near 12,800 MB/s (800 MHz x 128 bits / 8), at least in theory.
One of the problems we have already explained. Even though Athlon 64 X2 5000+ supports DDR2-800, its memory bus works at 742 MHz, not 800 MHz. Even then its maximum bandwidth would be 11,872 MB/s. Our Athlon 64 X2 5000+ used only 66.66% of this, achieving a performance as if the memories were DDR456 in dual channel configuration.
The DDR2 memories on our review were configured as DDR2-800.
Since this processor is being launched today, its price should be very high – and you will also need a new motherboard. But it will probably be released costing less than Athlon 64 FX-60, thus a better buy than Athlon 64 FX-60 if you are really a performance freak but want to save some money.
If you are a regular user we suggest you to hold on until the prices drop. Even for the performance addicts we would recommend to wait a little bit to see if our suspicion regarding AMD CPUs with new memory bus speeds comes true or not.
PS: Originally we have benchmarked Athlon 64 X2 5000+ with 1 GB DDR2-800 memory while other systems had 2 GB DDR. We have already corrected that. We have done the benchmarks again with 2 GB DDR2-800 and corrected all charts and text. The comparison now reflects all systems with 2 GB RAM.