CPU Guide

Sneak Peek - Conroe Puts the Fear into Athlon 64 FX-60

Sneak Peek - Conroe Puts the Fear into Athlon 64 FX-60


Conroe Flexes Core Microarchitecture

Conroe Flexes Core Microarchitecture

We mentioned in our last IDF Spring 2006 update that we'd have some exciting Core microarchitecture performance numbers for you and well, here it is. In a small closed room session, Intel ran a benchmarking session with a pre-production Conroe system. If you're still clueless, Conroe is the codename of Intel's next generation desktop dual core microprocessor, which is based on the new Core microarchitecture (read about it here ). Conroe will be launched around the third quarter this year and will replace the current Presler-based Pentium Ds and Extreme Edition CPUs.

The interesting thing about this session was that Intel decided to do a little dual core challenge of their own. This time, Intel pitted AMD's current best, the Athlon 64 FX-60 against a "mainstream" Conroe PC. We're sure you remember AMD's challenge to Intel last year on the server platform with AMD unanimously announcing themselves the winner as Intel did not respond. Now we know why. Intel has been itching to be able to show off processors on their Core microarchitecture and once we saw it for ourselves, we truly think that by the second half of 2006, there will actually be a head-to-head CPU bout.

There wouldn't be any point going on and on about things, so we'll get right to the chase. In regular www.hardwarezone.com tradition, the test bed setup for both PCs are listed below:-

Intel

  • Conroe @ 2.66GHz (4MB L2 cache)
  • Intel Desktop Board D975XBX (Intel 975X Express)
  • 2 x 512MB DDR2-667 @ 15-4-4 CAS 4.0
  • 2 x ATI Radeon X1900XT 256MB in CrossFire Mode
  • Catalyst 6.3 Beta (Driver String 8.23-060131a-030154E-ATI)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 (with DirectX 9.0c)

AMD

  • Athlon 64 FX-60 @ 2.80GHz (2MB L2 cache)
  • DFI LANPARTY UT RDX200 (ATI RD480)
  • 2 x 512MB DDR-400 @ 5-2-2 CAS 2.0 CMD 1T
  • 2 x ATI Radeon X1900XT 256MB in CrossFire Mode
  • Catalyst 6.3 Beta (Driver String 8.23-060131a-030154E-ATI)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 (with DirectX 9.0c)

Additional Notes

Before we go into the benchmarks, there are a couple of differences and optimizations made to the test systems for your considerations. While Intel did not allow us to peek into the Device Manager, we were able to navigate around the rest of the system and while you maybe skeptical that this is an Intel setup benchmark, we could not find any undue faults with both test beds. We also did not have enough time due other schedules and as such, we did not manage to get into the BIOS nor were we able to run each benchmark in more than one setting.

  • The Conroe platform was using DDR2-667 memory in this demo, but will take advantage of DDR2-800 officially on launch.
  • The Conroe CPU has a 2 x 2MB L2 cache vs. the 2 x 1MB L2 of the Athlon 64 FX-60.
  • In order to compensate on memory performance, the Conroe's DDR2 timings are 15-4-4-4 while the AMD's DDR memory are clocked very aggressively at 5-2-2-2 1T.
  • The AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 has been overclocked to 2.8GHz (from 2.6GHz) in anticipation of AMD's next part.
  • Intel used the older RD480 chipset so that the CrossFire setup would match. The newer ATI RD580 chipset (CrossFire Xpress 3200) supports dual PCIe x16 while Intel's 975X Express only supports dual PCIe x8 electrically.

In the following pages, you'll see performance numbers of live benchmark runs and not magical numbers Intel pulled out of a hat. Will Conroe be the end of AMD's performance desktop reign? You be the judge. Of course, we will reserve the final say on performance when we have these systems on hand ourselves, but these are as close to the real thing you'll get to see in a while.