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AMD's Quad FX platform technology preview
The words 'AMD' and 'playing catch-up' have become a pretty common part of our vernacular as 2006 has progressed, a phrasing that had been left almost entirely unused until Intel showed up with a little bit of silicon codenamed Conroe. Since then, Intel has gone from strength to strength, beating AMD across the board on the performance front. More recently, they managed to rub another hefty dose of salt in those gaping wounds by launching their first quad-core CPUs.
Today sees the launch of AMD's attempt to at least restore parity in this new domain of quad-core processing, if not to take the lead in the extreme enthusiast market place, with what had originally been dubbed their '4x4' platform. The 4x4 moniker was all about building a system capable of running four CPU cores with four graphics boards, but for whatever reason this branding has slipped away, to be replaced by the phrase 'Quad FX'.
While we don't have anything Quad FX-related to benchmark here at Elite Bastards, the technology behind the platform is worthy of at least some discussion, mainly because it takes such a different approach to quad-core processing than Intel's effort. So, let's talk about Quad FX, and just how AMD have tackled the issue of moving beyond dual-core.
Athlon FX-70 series CPUs
Before looking at the platform itself, we may as well start with the CPUs that power Quad FX, as AMD have released three new CPUs specifically for this new platform. Enter the Athlon FX-70 series.
The three CPUs released to support Quad FX are the FX-70, FX-72 and FX-74, which are clocked at 2.6GHz, 2.8GHz and 3.0GHz respectively. The first item of note is that all of these CPUs make use of an LGA (Land Grid Array) socket type previously only seen on Opteron CPUs - No Socket AM2 here, which means that you won't be able to buy up a pair of standard Athlon64 or older FX processors to create a Quad FX system. This socket type has previously been referred to as Socket F by AMD, but for some reason it has now been altered to Socket L1FX to tie in with the new Quad FX platform, I assume to avoid confusing between Opteron and Quad FX systems. The reasoning behind not using the recently introduced Socket AM2 is that, quite simply, it isn't designed to work using two processors in tandem.
Socket type aside, these FX-70 series are basically the same as any other dual-core AMD CPU, manufactured on the same 90 nanometre process, with the same 128KB of Level 1 and 2MB of Level 2 cache (1MB per core) and with an integrated DDR2 memory controller which supports up to PC6400 (or DDR-800).
The final interesting facet of these three FX-70 series CPUs is that all of them will only be sold in pairs, in keeping with the whole concept of Quad FX. US pricing has been set at $999 for the FX-74, $799 for the FX-72 and $599 for the FX-70.