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AMD Athlon X2 6000+ Review


No FX for You!


by Josh Walrath


            AMD today is officially releasing the X2 6000+ part, though its release is not that big of a surprise.  The X2 6000+ is based on the Rev. F. Athlon 64 dual core design, running at 3.0 GHz, and containing 1 MB of L2 cache per core.  The reason it is not a surprise is twofold: the previously released FX-74 is based on the same core with a 3.0 GHz clockspeed but on the Socket F platform, and AMD’s roadmaps have clearly shown a 3 GHz desktop part being released in Q1 2007.

One of my more favorite things to see dropping onto my doorstop.  Oddly enough, AMD has not changed their engineering sample box design in a long, long time...  Not like it really impacts consumers though.

            Though AMD had released its 65 nm parts at the very end of 2006, the new X2 6000+ is still based on their 90 nm process.  This is actually somewhat surprising as there are many that did not expect AMD’s 90 nm process to push a design like this economically to 3 GHz.  Consider the previous top end chip for the AM2 platform was the FX-62, and it already featured a 125 watt TDP rating.  No changes have been made to the design of the Rev. F chips, but AMD’s continuous process improvement program has allowed these designs to reach their top speed of 3.0 GHz. 

Why a 6000+?

            That seemingly simple question actually covers many areas.  Why was it named so?  Why did AMD feel the need to release it?  Who do they think will actually buy them?  In this review I try to answer these questions, as well as show how the performance scales from the previous top end “numbered” Athlon X2 5000+.

            So why 6000+ and not FX-64?  All previous top end Athlon 64s for the desktop had the FX moniker, so why the change?  The answer to that is with the FX-7x series of chips.  AMD wants to keep the FX name to its very top end enthusiast oriented products.  In this case the FX-74 is the very top end of the new “mega-tasker” niche.  AMD feels that the no-holds enthusiast should be the only ones sporting the FX label.  So this has left the single socket crowd without a FX product.  For the time being at least.  When native quad core AMD products are released, it appears as though there will be another FX based product for the AM2/AM2+ socket.

The X2 6000+ looks like any other Athlon 64.  Except of course it runs at 3.0 GHz at 1.4v and has two cores with 1 MB of L2 cache a piece.  This particular chip was produced in week 51 of 2006.

            Why did AMD release this product in the face of the mighty Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad?  I think the answer to this one is not so much they released it to better compete with Intel, but rather to show that AMD is committed to advancing their performance and sticking to roadmaps.  The Core 2 Duo/Quad architecture is a very impressive set of products.  At each price point it appears as though Intel has the performance lead.  When the X2 6000+ is released it will be slightly cheaper than the E6700 which runs at 2.66 GHz.  AMD certainly does hope though that the X2 6000+ will match up closely in performance, but that is not the overriding factor in releasing such a product.

            AMD is working very hard to be recognized as a solid and reliable partner.  As I had mentioned, previous roadmaps that they have given to their partners have shown a steady increase in clockspeeds and performance over time, and now it was time for AMD to make good on those roadmaps.  OEM cycles are typically quite long, and to adequately plan for these new product lines the big guys like Dell and HP need very detailed roadmaps.  If one of their suppliers decided to skip a product that was previously mentioned on a roadmap, then the product lineups at Dell and HP will take a hit.  It can be a very expensive hit depending on the component.

            AMD also has a philosophy of constant improvement.  This goes all the way from their process practices to what speed of processor is offered at every level of the market.  Constant improvement in this case means that AMD is taking their top AM2 product and making one better.  This also shows the marketplace that AMD has not given up, and they continue to push the performance of their lineup even though products from Intel may be faster, cooler, and more power efficient.

            So who exactly will be buying the X2 6000+?  The obvious answer is AMD enthusiasts that actually have the money to buy one of these chips.  But that will not be the only customer.  Other potential customers will include users who initially bought their AM2 based systems with less expensive single core or dual core chips, and are looking for an upgrade.  Considering that the X2 6000+ is under $500, it is a much more attractive target than when the FX-62 was priced at slightly under $1000.  OEMs and SIs will offer the 6000+ in their pre-built systems, because it helps flesh out their product lines.

            AMD is under no delusions here and they realize that the 6000+ will be a product that will not sell all that well.  It would in fact probably surprise AMD if the 6000+ made up even 1% of their desktop sales.  Constant improvement and pushing performance are the two main goals of AMD with this launch.


Next:  A Question of Power


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