AMD Pushes Forward
It was just about four months ago when AMD first unveiled the new Socket 939 processors at Computex Taipei. The announcements of the Athlon 64 3800+ and Athlon 64 FX-53 CPUs brought AMD further to compete with Intel in the performance segment. The new Socket 939 processors were much awaited by enthusiasts as it replaces the expensive Socket 940 Athlon 64 FX series of processors. It basically comes with a dual-channel memory controller supporting DDR400 memory but unlike the previous Socket 940 counterpart, it does not require the use of ECC Registered memory modules. This presents a signifcant cost savings for users who want 128-bit dual-channel memory performance.
Besides that, AMD has also increased the bandwidth of the HyperTransport link on these Socket 939 parts and it now runs at 1GHz, providing up to 8.0GB/s of bandwidth in both directions. However, in order to adopt these new processors, users have to upgrade their motherboard with chipsets that support the new HyperTransport bus frequency, as well as boards with the new Socket 939 pinouts. Older Socket 940 boards will not accept the new Socket 939 processors, although it's just a matter of a single pin difference. Users who dislike this messy upgrade path would have put their plans off momentarily as they wait for more processor choices and chipset/motherboard support.
With the Socket 939 roll-out, AMD now has quadrupled their product offerings as compared to the days when they were making upgraders happy with just a single socket form factor. Users who absolutely want budget processors could opt for the older Socket-A Athlon XP and Sempron processors while those ready to jump into the 64-bit bandwagon would go for the more affordable Athlon 64 (including budget AMD Sempron) processors in the Socket 754 form factor. Socket 754 processors are now available in abundance in most DIY stores today and they offer fairly good performance although it's only based on a single memory channel. Then, there are the high-end Socket 940 processors which is now populated only by the AMD Opteron series and they offer dual-channel memory performance, as well as three HyperTransport links for high bandwidth I/O or glueless linking with another processor for multi-processing platforms.
Finally, the Socket 939 series are designed specifically for the enthusiasts and performance desktop systems, either for extreme gaming or high-end computing platforms. These are the ultimate desktop systems that money can buy today and if you have the budget for it, you should try to invest in one of these platforms as it looks set to evolve further with greater speeds and features in the future.
Thus, if you look at the scheme of things today, whatever are your needs or budget, AMD seems to have positioned their solutions clearly for each market segment. The only thing left for users to do is to carefully consider which socket form factor they want, as their decision will affect the future upgradability of their system.