This review appears in the August issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents. The picture, specs and scores to the right are for the FX-62; for details of the X2 Dual-Core 5000+, kindly click here.
While Intel continues to pop out sockets and processors on an almost daily basis, AMD has been more circumspect in revamping its range. This is the first set of processors from AMD that rejects standard DDR (double data rate) RAM in favour of the more powerful DDR2 memory – a move Intel made more than a year ago.
The FX-62 is the more expensive of the two. It runs at a frequency of 2.8GHz. The 5000+ runs at a slower 2.6GHz, but makes up for this with a lower price of £500. Both are dual-core, so they'll be up to the job of taking on multiple tasks at once.
Both chips require a motherboard with AMD's latest chip socket, AM2. In contrast to the 939-pin design of Socket 939, AM2 contains 940 pins. It uses four mounting screws for the heatsink, ensuring a much stronger design. For testing, we used the MSI K9N SLI Platinum and the Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboards.
AMD is keen to stress its power-conservation credentials. In moving to the AM2 socket the company has been able to cut consumption on all of its range, with slower processors offering particularly impressive gains. The X2 Dual Core 5000+ consumes just 89W and, while the FX-62 is hardly insignificant in terms of juice guzzling, its 125W is a good 5W down on the most powerful Intel CPU (central processing unit).
While Intel systems use the Northbridge chipset to communicate with memory, in AM2 motherboards the processors come fitted with an integrated memory interface. This is good, in theory, as it means the memory interface can work at full processor speed rather than being held back by a slow bus on the motherboard.
Unfortunately, much of this is undermined by the memory. DDR2 chips tend to have poor latency – they take longer to respond to commands. So the transition from DDR to DDR2 can cut back on overall performance. The main processor will need to be running at 2.4-2.6GHz simply to ensure performance isn't lost.
This is partly why AMD has left it so long before changing to DDR2. It's only now that the standard processor is becoming fast enough to start taking advantage of DDR2, rather than being held back by it. Users will need to invest in DDR2 memory. While a gigabyte of Corsair DDR2 memory should cost only about £75 – rather than £55 for standard DDR RAM – you’re going to need something more impressive to take full advantage of the Athlons.
As new as these chips are, their 800MHz memory clock is already being outpaced. Corsair has a solution in the form of SLI (scalable link interface) memory chips. These can alter the bus speed and drive the motherboard at 1,066MHz. Our tests primarily revolved around 2GB of these, but this XMS2-8500C5 memory won't come cheap. Indeed, at the time of going to press, Overclockers.co.uk was selling 2GB for £355 – around £300 more than the 1GB of PC3200 DDR RAM you might typically be using in an existing Athlon system.
In our WorldBench 5 processing-speed tests, a good score of an Athlon 64 X2 4800+ PC with 1GB of DDR RAM would be around the 115 mark. With 1GB, the 5000+ was barely faster, with a score of 118. The FX-62 was more impressive, notching up 126 points, although a good 4800+ system with 2GB of DDR RAM could match this.
With 2GB on board the 5000+ hit the 130 mark, while the FX-62 romped to 136. But these chips were aided by some extremely fast – and expensive – memory. With less RAM, the scores fell by three to four points.
Games tests were more impressive, with the FX-62 hitting some particularly high frame rates – in excess of those posted by all previous Power PCs. But again, it’s only when you add the expense of the improved memory that the processors really hit the heights. And even then the 5000+ is only slightly faster than top 4800+ PCs.