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AMD Athlon X2 3600+

 

The First 65 nm Glimpse

 

by Josh Walrath

 

            In December, 2006 AMD announced that they had begun volume shipments of 65 nm parts to OEMs around the world.  There were those that were less than impressed by AMD’s 65 nm introduction, as these chips were not freely available from online retailers.  In fact, there were many that were not convinced that AMD was in fact shipping any 65 nm parts.  While it appeared that a few manufacturers like Velocity Micro and others did in fact receive 65 nm parts and had them for sale that month, there was a real dearth of verifiable product being put on the market.

            Near the end of January, 2007 though, we finally were able to see 65 nm parts for sale.  Newegg was one of the first to offer a Brisbane based core, and they sold the X2 3600+ as a bundle at first.  I was lucky enough to pick up the combo, but due to time constraints I used an already set up Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe (rev. 1.3) so I could get the testing done quickly, and see what type of legs this CPU has. 

Some Background

            AMD simply does not have the resources to keep up with Intel when it comes to node changes, so typically they are much more conservative with their process tech introductions and the initial products placed upon it.  Intel was able to start the 65 nm transition late last year, and really started to ramp things up right before the introduction of the Core 2 Duo chips in Summer 2006.  AMD currently only has two Fabs producing CPUs, one of which has 65 nm production.  Fab 36 is a 300 mm wafer facility that has both 90 nm and 65 nm lines.  From my understanding they are phasing out the 90 nm products and converting that line space to 65 nm, all the while allowing Fab 30 to handle 90 nm production.

            Currently AMD is starting to ramp up production at 65 nm parts with their “meat and potatoes” products, these being the lower clocked dual core processors which sell far more than any other product AMD currently has in its portfolio.  These products include the X2 3600 going all the way up to the X2 4800.  Currently the vast majority of these parts are making it into OEM’s hands, and only a few SKU’s have made it onto the retail market so far.  With the Dells and HPs of the world taking up the majority of parts for their low end and midrange products, it is no wonder why retailers have not seen many of these products yet.  It really is only this week that we have seen greater availability of 3600, 4000, 4400, and 4800 parts.

            As I had covered in AMD and 65 nm, AMD made the Brisbane core a transitional product.  From several sources around AMD I had found out that very few engineers were assigned to work on Brisbane, and their focus was very narrow in doing so.  The primary thrust of this design was to add no new features, do some basic design cleanup, and port the design to 65 nm.  AMD did appear to put another two cycles of latency for the L2 cache, apparently to allow for the possibility of chips with cache sizes above 1 MB.  Other than that, the differences between a 65 nm Brisbane and a 90 nm Windsor are few.

            The combination of a brand new process node and a design that was originally focused on 90 nm does not necessarily bode well for the clocking potential of these new 65 nm cores.  So to satisfy my curiosity I got my hands on the X2 3600+ to see how well it overclocked and scaled in performance.

 

Next:  The X2 3600+ and AM2

 

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