Things were quite strange in the month before the Athlon64 launch. That was about the time reviewers received first details of FX51 — the Enthusiast version of Athlon64. For those who had been following AMD's slow progress to A64 launch, it certainly looked like AMD was worried and wanted to make absolutely sure that A64 would outperform anything Intel could throw at the launch. Perhaps the EE chip info leaked to AMD, and the FX was the insurance just to make CERTAIN Athlon64 would maintain a performance lead. Perhaps AMD was concerned that lack of Dual-Channel memory support on Athlon64 might make consumers think A64 was a slower chip. It isn't, but perceptions sometimes matter more than facts. We don't know the real reason for the FX launch, but whatever the reason, it is clear that it was a last minute decision.

FX51 is basically an Opteron with a different name. It works with a BIOS update on many Socket 940 Opteron boards, and will not work on any of the Socket 754 boards being introduced right now. Like Opteron, it also suffers (or benefits, depending on your perspective) from the requirement for Registered Dual-Channel memory to operate. The only concession is that while it can use Registered ECC memory like Opteron, only Registered is required on FX51.

The even stranger part was AMD's positioning of FX51. They refused to even sample Athlon64 chips, forcing review sites into a position of begging their Advertisers for Athlon64 chips to review anything. Athlon64 launch partners were frustrated because many review sites could not review their new boards because they had no Athlon64 chips. The only sampling that was done by AMD was the very limited sampling of FX51 chips in an AMD prepared system. AMD was clear in their actions and words that they wanted the Launch to be with Athlon64 FX51 processors.

Even now, we have to wonder why. Athlon64 is fully competitive with Pentium4 3.2GHz. It enjoys both a price advantage over the P4 3.2 and the Athlon64 FX51, and, maybe even more important to buyers, it is available while there are almost no FX51 chips to be found. There were also many, many Athlon64 boards at launch, and only the Asus SK-8N board for the FX51 — a board first released as an Opteron motherboard. In addition, AMD was clear in its plan to move FX51 as quickly as possible to Socket 939 in 2004, which is capable of using regular unbuffered memory like most enthusiasts already own. AMD also announced very small production numbers for Socket 940 FX, leaving little incentive for manufacturers to produce Socket 940 boards for the desktop.

Thankfully, the major players — like Gigabyte, Asus, and MSI – have delivered or will deliver Athlon64 FX boards. We were glad to see Gigabyte's K8NNXP-940, which continues Gigabyte's recent stretch of high-end “Dual-Miracle” motherboards. The name is the same as Gigabyte's nForce3 Athlon64 board, with the addition of “940” to the name. As you will see, however, the differences are much deeper than just a different socket.

Gigabyte K8NNXP-940: Basic Features
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  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - link

    Why would a manufacturer include ECC slots for RAM but no 64 bit PCI bus? Is this aimed at the server market, the high end workstation, or what? Remove two PCI 32 bit slots and make 'em PCI 64bit. You have on board ethernet an USB. All everyone else needs is a video card and you have an AGP slot for that anyway. Come on manufacturers, let's see some damn 64 bit PCI slots already!!! Reply
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - link

    Why would a manufacturer include ECC slots for RAM but no 64 bit PCI bus? Is this aimed at the server market, the high end workstation, or what? Remove two PCI 32 bit slots and make 'em PCI 64bit. You have on board ethernet an USB. All everyone else needs is a video card and you have an AGP slot for that anyway. Come on manufacturers, let's see some damn 64 bit PCI slots already!!! Reply
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - link

    To reiterate and emphasize #19's question:

    * WHEN will these things become AVAILABLE? *

    I've already ordered my FX-51 processor and most of the rest of the system. I'm twiddling my thumbs waiting for this motherboard to appear on the virtual shelves of some reseller.

    Maybe I should resort to ball and jacks.
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Monday, October 13, 2003 - link

    The anti-AMD comments are completely baseless. So you're going to stop buying from one company because one product is not good? What about the other company's product? Are you going to buy that just because you happened to not have a bad experience with them and then decided to go elsewhere if you do? Such is the attitude of the "all or nothing" extremists. I don't like those people - they tend to have tunnel vision.

    Let us not forget that purchasing EITHER the P4EE or 64 FX this year is a horrible mistake if you plan to upgrade, unless AMD and intel plan on making higher speed grades for those sockets, which seems unlikely. Combine the price point that could allow one to easily purchase a high-end Dual Socket A system for little more than 5% more performance, and you must ask yourself if what you are doing is really worth it...

    The Value-conscious buyer gets a Barton or 2.4C system NOW if they really need to upgrade, or waits out until fall next year if they don't. Remember all the high-end stuff... 300MHz PII Klamath, 600 PIII katmai, 1130 PII Cumine, 2GHz willamette, etc.... all of those are top-end platforms with virtually NO upgrade path whatsoever. Many with them were utterly disappointed as something with more performance and a much shinier upgrade outlook could be purchased a few months later....

    We have all made mistakes, due to lack of research and closed-box thinking burned by non-A via chipsets and the like, but please, let's learn....
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Monday, October 13, 2003 - link

    The anti-AMD comments are completely baseless. So you're going to stop buying from one company because one product is not good? What about the other company's product? Are you going to buy that just because you happened to not have a bad experience with them and then decided to go elsewhere if you do? Such is the attitude of the "all or nothing" extremists. I don't like those people - they tend to have tunnel vision.

    Let us not forget that purchasing EITHER the P4EE or 64 FX this year is a horrible mistake if you plan to upgrade, unless AMD and intel plan on making higher speed grades for those sockets, which seems unlikely. Combine the price point that could allow one to easily purchase a high-end Dual Socket A system for little more than 5% more performance, and you must ask yourself if what you are doing is really worth it...

    The Value-conscious buyer gets a Barton or 2.4C system NOW if they really need to upgrade, or waits out until fall next year if they don't. Remember all the high-end stuff... 300MHz PII Klamath, 600 PIII katmai, 1130 PII Cumine, 2GHz willamette, etc.... all of those are top-end platforms with virtually NO upgrade path whatsoever. Many with them were utterly disappointed as something with more performance and a much shinier upgrade outlook could be purchased a few months later....

    We have all made mistakes, due to lack of research and closed-box thinking burned by non-A via chipsets and the like, but please, let's learn....
    Reply
  • Reflex - Monday, October 13, 2003 - link

    Heh, K6-2's rocked provided you did your research on your motherboards. The Asus P5A was easily my favorite, I still have a few systems out there that I built based on those and they are *rock* solid. I suppose if you bought a PC Chips board/relabel and had system issues that it may have colored your perspective, but honestly most of the boards I used at the time from Asus, Abit and Epox were all very very good.

    But its always that way, if you do your homework you won't get burned. Or at least its rare. ;)
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 12, 2003 - link

    #26 - I had a comparable mentality as it relates to AMD. I thought the K6-2 was craptastic as well but let me tell you, AMD has come a LONG way since then and most of the problems with the K6-2's were actually with the MB chipsets. If you don't give AMD another look you are selling yourself short. Sure glad I did! Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 12, 2003 - link

    It's best to leave people like #26 alone as you can't save them. Just like those people who continuously buy from Dell, best to look, shake your head, and keep walking. Reply
  • Reflex - Sunday, October 12, 2003 - link

    #26: Never buy once you have had a defective product? How's that i820 motherboard with MTH doing these days? How about the first generation P4 that was slower than the P3? GOt a P60 with the floating point bug? How much money you invest in the dead end called RDRAM? Ever pick up one of those 1.13Ghz P3 CPU's, the first generation ones that had all sorts of problems...

    With your attitude I am amazed you can buy Intel. After all, they have had practically a parade of errors and flaws. As far as I know no company hits everything 100% all the time. Judging based on your experience with a single product is pretty idiotic, I am certain I can find a very flawed product that was put out by virtually every company in tech at some point or other. But hey, where will you go when you finally end up with a flawed Intel chip, I mean I guess its off to the Via C3 or something...heh.
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, October 12, 2003 - link

    The Macs are really, really, really freaking fast. What are you talking about? The Mac G5 beats a dual 3Ghz Xeon system by about 50% all around.

    I'll never ever buy a Mac though. Just like I'll never buy an AMD system since my K6-2 fiasco. Say what you want, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I won't shop at Best Buy. I wont buy anything made by Sony either after 2 discmans (men?), a $600 amplifier, and a CD burner broke way too early. After a company sells me a faulty product, I don't buy from them anymore.

    Maybe the Pentium Pro pricing days are coming back, but regardless, Intel's new roadmap suggests that by this time next year a 3.6 Ghz Prescott with a 1Mb cache will be in the midrange price range and still fit in any 478-pin socket. That, to me, says that today's best buy is still a P4 2.4C. Who knows if AMD will still be in business by then anyway. Maybe IBM will be tired of giving them 200 million bail-out gifts, and will own them by then.

    I will admit this: The best high-end system, for the buck, right now, is certainly AMD. I just won't buy one.
    Reply

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