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AMD Socket AM2 Family Preview

Michael Larabel

Published on 23 May 2006
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - Comment On This Article

For months now, AMD's M2/AM2 CPU socket has been heated with countless rumors, leaked photographs of engineering samples, and all sorts of details as to what computer enthusiasts can expect to see from this next generation socket. Well, the wait is over. With the embargo now lifted on AMD's Socket AM2, we at Phoronix have up a great deal of information pertaining to the technical details of the socket, comments on the Linux support, the various products to come down the AMD pipeline and those from their partners, and other pertinent information. We at Phoronix have all of the facts for you this morning from this highly anticipated pre-Computex launch to help you decide whether the AMD Socket AM2 is worth the extensive upgrade.

While component-wise this AMD launch today isn't as ground-breaking as Intel's Grantsdale and Alderwood launch that had delivered DDR2, PCI Express, Land Grid Array CPU package, and other changes for the platform, today is AMD's first time benefiting from Double Data Rate 2 system memory. With many of the initial DDR2 problems now addressed, such as the high latencies, and the frequencies now exceeding 1GHz, it is certainly time for AMD to join this bandwagon. One of the advantages of AMD's DDR2 adoption is the official support for DDR2-800MHz by the CPU, while Intel's competition remains at DDR2-667 until later this year when they will finally get into DDR2-800+ support.

AMD's physical socket change does not appear to have been necessary for the move from DDR to DDR2, but it was likely done to prevent consumer confusion when installing components. Though, some of the architectural changes planned by AMD for 2007 should benefit from this design. While the AM2 parts do sport a 940-pin interface, they are not compatible with the 940-pin Opteron processors. With the new retention frame, not all existing Socket 939 heatsinks will be compatible with the new socket. Some enthusiast heatsinks we know will be compatible with the new retention frame, but others may possess upgrading difficulties, and we do anticipate that some high-end cooling vendors will begin to offer modified mounting kits.

The AM2 desktop (revision F) processors being announced today are based upon Windsor, Orleans, and Manila cores for the Athlon 64 X2, Athlon 64, and Sempron series respectively. These cores all boast 90nm manufacturing; AMD's 65nm parts will not begin to roll out until later this year with the Brisbane cores. AMD's Cool 'n' Quiet continues to be implemented on these processors. For top-notch performance, AMD will be offering their Athlon 64 FX-62 CPU, which is a 2.8GHz AM2 processor. One of the other advantages to have been delivered is with AMD's Pacifica Virtualization Technology -- the competitor to Intel's Vanderpool Virtualization Technology. Some of these new AM2 processors also boast significant improvements to the energy efficiency. As announced last week, the energy efficient (EE) AM2 processors can provide 37 percent greater performance-per-watt than standard AMD processors, and the new Athlon 64 X2 solutions can provide up to 154 percent greater performance-per-watt. One of the numbers that AMD has thrown out in its press release last week as a dual-core processor consuming a mere 14 Watts.

With AMD's Pacifica technology, they had linked up with VMWare and Xen developers to ensure that their implementation offers performance with those hypervisors. Sources have also confirmed that extensive testing has been done on AMD's new platform to make sure things will go without fault. AMD's Pacifica will support all x86 modes, including the Virtual 8086 mode used by MS-DOS and earlier versions of Windows. AMD has also implemented Presidio technology for enhanced security built-in and can support TPM components. Pacifica technology will also boast an exclusive feature for protecting buggy code or malicious content from running on the AM2 processor. With virtualization still not reaching prime-time, it is believed that virtualization will be exploited to corrupt entire environments or even across environments through the hypervisor.

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