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Computex: MSI lets slip AMD's secret speeds UPDATED

Motherboard maker hints at Hammer megahertz rating

Interest in AMD's latest 64bit desktop processors, codenamed Hammer, is hotting up at the Computex technology show in Taipei, with at least one motherboard manufacturer giving visitors to its stand a clue as to what speed it will run at.

PC Advisor has also learned that reports of poor performance of sister processor Opteron (codenamed Sledge Hammer) may have been due to a deliberate act by AMD. The twisted logic argues that by locking the samples to a low clock speed, it wouldn't be possible to see the chip's true capability and avoid any questions about the chip's performance. According to a PC Advisor source, "It was locked at 800[MHz] and that's why people are saying there's poor performance but in actual fact it was locked there so people couldn't play around and get benchmarks out. "

MSI was displaying two motherboards — K8A Gem and K8H Gem ABIL — both of which support the desktop Claw Hammer chip. A list of specifications was displayed alongside these boards, which described them as designed to support a processor running at 1.6GHz. This is despite repeated efforts from the chip manufacturer to move away from measuring processor performance in megahertz.

But later in the show these lists were changed, and the clock speed was replaced by a 3000+ rating, which falls in line with AMD's True Performance Index, used to rate all its current processors. At the moment the fastest AMD desktop CPU is the Althon XP 2200+, which runs at 1.82GHz.

Adding further to the mystery, a motherboard seen by PC Advisor and said to be designed for Claw Hammer touted a sticker (pictured) stating "256K-800MHz", undoubtedly referring to the chip's clock speed. Markings on another board showed it was capable of running on a 200MHz bus, giving a 400MHz DDR (double data rate) bus speed.

AMD officials attending the show have refused to discuss the performance characteristics of the Hammer chips and speculation has varied on how quick the chips currently are and how fast they will run when they finally ship. "I'm not allowed to talk about the 'M' word," one AMD product manager said, referring to megahertz, the measure of processor clock speed.

Most of the Hammer products on show at Computex are for the desktop version of the chip, rather than the server and workstation version known as Opteron. Many major vendors are showing products that will support Hammer chips including SiS, Ali, ATI, Via and nVidia.

Among the features that will be offered for the desktop version of the Hammer are integrated graphics from nVidia's nForce chipset and support for SD (secure digital) and Memory Stick media. Support for AGP 8x graphics, USB 2.0 and HyperTransport interconnect technology, which promises enhanced performance, will also be included.


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