Generic Athlon 64 Guide (pricing/installation/etc.)

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by Sazar, Jul 21, 2004.

  1. Sazar

    Sazar F@H - Is it in you? Staff Member Political User Folding Team

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    Since so many people are buying and installing the new AMD Athlon64 based systems into their rigs I thought it might be prudent to have a little write-up to make people's lives easier :)

    This is not the be-all end-all of guides, people who have other suggestions/quips please add on to this thread so we can collectively help others getting these systems. Also keep in mind for the most part I refer to athlon64's and athlon FX's as athlon64's cept in the Processor section.

    Disclaimer this thread has nothing to do with the general p4 v/s athlon64 debate... please keep that in mind before posting in this thread. That is not my intention and if you are intent on dragging the thread in that direction please consider making a new/separate thread for this purpose if you must.

    To make life easier for everyone I will also include a running cost total to allow you to decide what sort of system to go for (the costs are not the bare minimum but close approximations to allow for cost variations, I am not responsible for fluctuations from the time of the writing of this till when you purchase your system)

    Power Supply Unit

    The P.S.U. is the primary component to keep in mind BEFORE you purchase your motherboard and cpu. This is doubly important if you have a new video card purchase coming up or already have one.

    you must have a minimum of 18A on the 12V rail per AMD's specs. With a good enough P.S.U. you might get away with having lower specs. My P.S.U. gives my 27A on the 12V rail. My old P.S.U. was an antec 400W SL unit and gave me 18A on the 12V rail and I had no problems with it.

    Some SFF units have no problems running an athlon64 setup with a lower spec'd P.S.U. but again this probably has more to do with the build quality of the device.

    A good P.S.U. can run you over $60. upto around $150 for a really good one.

    Chipset

    There are multiple chipset available for the athlon64 platform. In this small write-up I will be concentrating on chipsets available for sockets 754 and 939 only.

    Socket 754

    For socket 754 you have the via based k8t800 and k8t800pro and derivatives, nvidia based NF3-150 and 250 and derivatives, SiS's chipset comprising at least of the 755 model and ALi's chipset comprising at least of the M1687.

    I have not personally dealt with or seen many sales of the latter 2. Given this fact as well as the fact that I know more about the other 2 chipsets I will concentrate primarily on the via and nvidia solutions.

    The nf3-250 and via k8t800pro versions are supposedly available with pci/agp locks and therefore are better solutions for overclockers who wish to push their athlon64 cpu's to their limits. Keep in mind that some versions of the boards have been reported as having floating locks (primarily the cheaper nf3-250's and k8t800pro's).

    In my personal opinion I would consider the nf3-250 higher-end derivatives (with GbE) first and foremost before the others. I personally have a k8t800 board and have not had any problems with it. Raw performance is satisfactory and it overclocks well, though not having a pci/agp lock I have no pushed the fsb much above 210mhz for an extended period of time.

    I would not recommend the nf3-150 simply due to the fact that it only has an 8-bit upstream HyperTransport bus (HTT) (and speed of 600mhz) instead of full 16bit (800mhz) bus. Overall there will be minor performance losses in many areas but I just don't see a reason to buy this board when the nf3-250, k8t800 and k8t800pro boards have full speed upstream/downstream HTT bus's.

    The price for a decent nf3-250/k8t800/k8t800pro board will start around $85 but it might be an idea to shell out a little more for a better board. Consider a budget of between $100-$130

    Any of the big boys will be a good purchase.

    Socket 939

    Unfortunately thus far there are only 2 chipsets and 3 boards out there for sckt 939 in retail. 2 of them are Via chipsets (k8t800pro) and one is based off Nvidia's nf3-250 chipset.

    Based on reviews and the experiences of the people on the board I think it is only prudent to recommend the Asus A8V board and the Gigabyte K8N boards. The Abit AV8 board apparently still has problems.

    Cost for these boards is obviously higher than their sckt 754 cousins. The starting price is around the $120 range and goes up over $200 for the Gigabyte board on some sites. So I'll just stick $120-$220 as a guideline.

    Processor

    Finally we get to the processor you say :)

    Well there is a good reason for this. It is better to have a good idea of what kind of basic costs and requirements there exist BEFORE you get to the processor because then you can work around the budget you need.

    Anyways, as with the motherboards, there are 2 different processor types for AMD's athlon64 lineup. Socket's 754 and 939.

    Socket 754

    Socket 754 has 2 versions of cpu's, the Newcastle based cpu has a smaller L2 cache at 512KB. The Clawhammer revision has a larger L2 cache at 1MB.

    The lineup consists of the 2800+, 3000+, 3200+, 3400+ and 3700+ revisions.

    Costs range from around $170 for the 2800+ to a premium of around $650 for the 3700+. So lets say the price variance depending on model is between $170-$650 for the sake of this write-up.

    Socket 939

    Socket 939 also has 2 revisions. The Newcastle cored version basically consist of the 3500+ and 3800+ models. The Sledgehammer based core is reserved for the FX lineup ONLY

    The advantage of the Socket 939 core is that the memory is DUAL-CHANNEL v/s single channel for the socket 754 based setup. This equates to a far larger memory-bandwidth and is apparent in memory intensive applications. Games are not one of these areas that really standout although socket 939 based solutions are generally faster than their socket 754 brethren.

    The prices for the socket 939 solutions range from over $460 for the 3500+ to around $780 for the FX-53. For the sake of this write-up lets say the variance is between $460-$780.

    The advantage of an FX based setup on this chipset is that not only does it have twice as much L2 cache but it also comes with an unlocked multiplier (as do all FX cpu's. Opteron's for socket 940 as the same as FX's but they don't have an unlocked multiplier).

    Socket 939 cpu's also have a higher HTT, running at 1000MHz rather than 800MHz for the socket 754 cpu's but in real world tests this has thus far yielded no tangible differnece in performance. I am also not sure about the 3700+, I will post concerning it after I read some more. It might also have 1000MHz HTT.

    I highly recommend getting a socket 939 based solution though you may want to hold up for a bit while the new motherboards come out.

    Memory Choices

    Memory is important when purchasing your system. Since the athlon64 setup has an on-die memory controller it is a lot more finicky than a regular system (such as an AXP or P4 setup). Most motherboard makers list the types of memory that are compatible with their boards so consider double-checking with them. Athlon64 cpu's also have 2 revisions, C0 and CG.

    The C0 revision was the first revision and thus far has had some compatibility problems with certain types of RAM running using very tight settings. CG has a reworked memory controller and allows for better compatibility and hence likely better performance.

    I highly recommend getting decent memory. Prices vary a lot here and you should probably be able to use the memory from your current system.

    For the sake of this write-up I going to list it as being between $0 - $350 for some of the top brands. Naturally I am assuming you are installing 1 gigabyte of memory.

    Purchase round-up

    This is the basic PURCHASE guide for an athlon64 based system. I am writing an installation guide right after this in the same thread :)

    Total cost for an athlon64 system for power supply/motherboard/cpu and memory is:

    Minimum = about $320 (assuming you have your own ram)

    Maximum = about $1400 (assuming you get the best everything w/o going for the REALLY exotic memory and psu's)
     
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  2. Sazar

    Sazar F@H - Is it in you? Staff Member Political User Folding Team

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    Generic Installation Guide

    This part of the guide covers my views on installing and running and Athlon64 based system.

    Disclaimer:

    Below follows MY guide to installing an athlon64 system. I have only installed 3 of them thus far so I don't claim to be an expert. I also take the better safe than sorry approach. Athlon64's are generally more finicky during installation than any other system I have had but they do install fine and run well per the steps I follow so hopefully they will for you as well.


    Installing an athlon64 retention plate

    I will assume for the sake of this writeup that you have somewhat of an idea whats going on inside your case, that you have a decent case (ie an ATX case with the proper connectors and of decent size) and that you will take responsibility for your actions.

    First off, BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE stick the retention plate that comes with either the motherboard or the cpu (or both) onto the underside of the motherboard.

    This is important since the requisite amount of force for the heatsink on the cpu comes from the retention plates workings. The force stated in AMD's white-paper is 75lb's on the cpu. I know it seems like a lot but the heatspreader can handle it unless you REALLY push down on the lid (which you should not be doing anyways).

    Installing the heatsink

    This will vary depending on what type of heatsink you have. Some of them fit fine in the stock retail bracket that comes with the retail athlon64 cpu. Once you figure out how the heatsink is installed, you can install the motherboard. Saves you having to pull the motherboard out once you already have it sitting inside.

    Most motherboard makers adhere to AMD's specified "clear zone" around the processor and most heatsinks for the athlon64 cpu fit within this zone. Make sure your prefered heatsink fits and does not damage any of the capacitors around the cpu socket.

    Oh, and MAKE SURE you have the heatsink on the right-way :)

    Installing the athlon64 processor

    Simply drop the cpu into the socket and lock it in place. Simple and painless. Do this before or after you install the heatsink bracket, it doesn't matter much. Just a personal preference and a convenisnce factor.

    Once the cpu is in, apply necessary thermal paste and attach heatsink.

    WARNING

    Some heatsinks that don't use the athlon64 heatsink bracket don't have good installation clips and MAY crack the lid if you screw them down too tightly. Some heatsink makers like swiftech offer spring loaded screws that prevent this from happening. Keep this in mind before you start turning those screws, it could be an unpleasant surprise.

    The first boot

    Okies, time to fire up the baby.

    The first thing to do is the install the memory (preferably only 1 memory clip for starters), the ATX and 12v power-supply connectors to the motherboard, the video card (and its additional power as required) and the front-panel connectors (just for power switch for starters though it doesn't matter much). Also don't forget to plug in your heatsink.

    Once these basic devices are in, boot. The setup should boot fine. If it does you are almost good to go. Please refrain from using additional devices such as sound cards, other PCI devices, hard drives and the like. For the most part they should not cause problems and the boot should be smooth but IF the system does not boot you have a lot more to trouble-shoot.

    Also those with Audigy cards, specially the Audigy1, please do not install your card when booting for the first time if you can help it. These devices have a pretty good record for causing boot-failures the first time and devices boot fine when they are removed. After the first boot they are generally not a problem but PLEASE try not to boot with the Audigy inserted for the first POST.

    If the device POST's fine you are good to go. Install all other peripherals and what not, the extra memory and all other devices and enjoy the device.

    Installing Cool and Quiet

    Finally we get to my personal favorite gimmick with the Athlon64. This only works with windows mind you.

    It has to be enabled in the BIOS (and may not be supported on all motherboards) and then requires a windows driver to work. The windows driver can be downloaded (along with other utilities) from here

    Once it is installed, ensure your Power Management settings are set to Minimal Power Management. To get there for windows XP, simply right-click in the desktop, go to Screensaver tab, click on the Power button and voila. From the drop-down box select the aforementioned item and you are good to go.

    Download and install the latest version of cpu-z to check out your new baby and what speed it is running at. When you minimize cpu-z it will minimize to display the current clock speed.

    Cool and quiet will run the cpu at a stock 800MHz and per AMD's whitepaper, the clock-speed can vary upto 30 times per second.

    Some games have problems with the way they collect clock speed data and may not run smoothly with cool and quiet enabled. Simply go to Power Management and return the system to Home/Office settings and all will be fine.

    The conclusion

    And there you have it folks. Hopefully more people will add to the little tid-bits I have put forth, specially pertaining to other motherboards.

    I have not included an overclocking guide because I personally don't overclock my computer. I may give it a whirl now and then but I don't as a rule overclock.
     
  3. Sazar

    Sazar F@H - Is it in you? Staff Member Political User Folding Team

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  4. NetRyder

    NetRyder Tech Junkie Folding Team

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    Nicely done, Saz. Very in-depth. [​IMG]
     
  5. Sazar

    Sazar F@H - Is it in you? Staff Member Political User Folding Team

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    ta... :cool:
     
  6. Tittles

    Tittles Dabba Dooba Political User

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    yes...i would love to have an 64 bit processer but of course i am only 15 and dont have money for that :S
     
  7. Tuffgong4

    Tuffgong4 The Donger Need Food!!!! Political User

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    well it seems that when I installed the driver and put the power settings to minimal my computer decides to restart when it wants to...going to check my bios settings to see if there is anything weird going on...running albatron K8X800 Pro II mb with a 3000+

    btw Sazar nice guide
     
  8. dave holbon

    dave holbon Moderator

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    SAZAR,

    You put a lot of effort into that, well done.

    :) :) :)
     
  9. onimkron

    onimkron OSNN Senior Addict

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    A very, very good write up. I've been wondering whether to go the extra mile and put some money into the A64 fund, and this guide really helps making the choices :)
     
  10. Sazar

    Sazar F@H - Is it in you? Staff Member Political User Folding Team

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    not really :)

    took about an hour for both parts... with a coupla online sites up for me to check prices for part I :)

    ta though... was meant to help people and hopefully others with athlon64 setups will drop in their own guides or tips for how to do certain things... will try and keep this particular thread for comments/guides only... no trouble-shooting...
     
  11. desie

    desie OSNN Senior Addict

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    Good guide :D
     
  12. ShepsCrook

    ShepsCrook Red Sox Fan!

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    Looking into a AMD64? Check this out for help with your choice

    Basically if your going to the store and check out the processor, and see the stepping, this guide will help you choose a good processor from the bunch. CG stepping is known to be the best stepping available from AMD.
    A64 CPU Models, OPN code, PR/frequency rating

    The following links detail about the models (OPN) and specifications:

    A64 Model (OPN) for 754, 939, FX, including desktop, mobile DTR, low voltage:
    http://www.ocforums.com/showpost.php?p=2760601
    http://www.amdboard.com/amd64_opn.html

    A64 939 spec:
    http://www.ocforums.com/showpost.php?p=2760928

    A64 754 spec:
    http://www.ocforums.com/showpost.php?p=2760930

    A64 Mobile 754 DTR, 1.4V, 1.2V spec:
    http://www.ocforums.com/showpost.php?p=2760959

    A64 FX (940, 939) spec:
    http://www.ocforums.com/showpost.php?p=2761277

    -edit-

    made minor modifications to improve readability - Sazar
     
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  13. Sazar

    Sazar F@H - Is it in you? Staff Member Political User Folding Team

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    minor news updates...

    some of the athlon 64 processors recently released have problems with the manner in which the temperature is being reported...

    all athlon 64 cpu's as far as I know have thermal monitoring built-in... some motherboards with older bios'es are reading the temperatures as being much higher than they really are...

    a bios update general fixes the temperature reporting error... make sure you have a read through the changelog prior to making any changes to ensure it is a necessary upgrade :) I know not everyone who has a computer loves to update their software every few days...

    the bios fix generally reports the correct temperature and provides peace of mind to those of us who may be worried with 50-60C temperatures at idle...
     
  14. Mainframeguy

    Mainframeguy Debiant by way of Ubuntu Folding Team

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    Just a thought...

    ... but could someone who is in the AMD 64 club give a very generalised impression as to what it is like making the jump - preferably from a high end Athlon processor (because I suspect people contemplating the move are around that point, or if not could well more economically take a high end Athlon as a stop gap while waiting for the AMD 64 prices to fall... Just I am really itching to make the move, but would love some backup as to the payback in real terms....

    So do not assume a top notch Ultra card or anything - just something along the lines of a 9700 and assume maybe the processor takes the lions share of the immediate upgrade budget (alongside mobo obviously) then in terms of your OOB experience, what are the things you first notice or that stay with you? (kinda like I remember moving from 14" to 19" screen it was a WOW moment and I could never go back?)

    I hope you get my drift..... Would help me to hear back - rep points of course ;)
     
  15. Sazar

    Sazar F@H - Is it in you? Staff Member Political User Folding Team

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    I noticed a decent jump in overall performance, especially wrt gaming... going from a 3.0c pentium 4 to my current setup...

    considering that generally the 2.8c and above very better performers than the athlon xp lineup I would say you will get a much snappier response, better multi-tasking and better gaming experience...

    naturally if you are moving from a top of the line AXP (a 3200+) there will be areas of improvement that are marginal at best...

    overall you WILL like the processor I think... I moved from an AXP 1900+ to a p4 3.0c and there was significant gaming and multi-tasking improvement but it lacked the snappiness of my athlon processor... so when I had the chance to get an A64 I took it and I had even more speed as well as overall snappiness :)

    your mileage will vary but invariably you will see improvements in many areas... read a few reviews on the processors to get an idea of the performance delta in various apps...
     
  16. ShepsCrook

    ShepsCrook Red Sox Fan!

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    Ok, here's some more updates. Since this info is getting a little old.

    Newly released FX-55, 4000+ processors have made AMD drop the regular pricing for their previous lines pricing by about $50

    Also, The 939 processors come in new shapes and flavors.
    939 3000+ 90nm
    939 3200+ 90nm
    939 3400+ 130nm
    939 3500+ 130nm and 90nm

    If you visit some of the overclocking forums, you will come to find that the 3200+ seems to be the most popular because it overclocks to speeds well above the 3500+ as well as equivelant to others of the 90nm line. Making it the new AMD overclocking chip. The 3000+ does a nice job but not as smoothly as the 3200.

    Next up, since it was stated that there are only 3 motherboards for the socket 939 chips, I feel it's probably time to state there are about 8 or 9 now. If you are looking to overclock with any of these boards. The MSI K8N Neo 2 Platinum and the
    GIGABYTE GA-K8NSNXP board are the top rated models. Very stable and achieved the highest clock of 300HTT. Maxing out the boards.

    The most popular of the Via chipset series is the Asus A8V Deluxe Rev.2.0 It's a stable board with some pretty decent overclockability, but falls short of the previously mentioned boards.

    Looking for some good cooling? Some of the top coolers are the XP-90 by Thermaltake and it's big brother, the XP-190. Joined up with some good fans, whatever you fancy, should keep your processor nice and cool. Another great heatsink and fan is the Zalman 7000AlCu. It works on all sockets for the AMD64s and does a great job of cooling. Very quiet.... and Very effective.

    Remember folks, that AMD also states that you void any warrenty if you use thermal paste that contains a metal in it. So if you use your nifty Silver based compound, remember there's no going back after that. So it is suggested that you use the white paste that you can get from almost anywhere. Or some nice Ceramique paste.
    (Although, Arctic Silver 5 still remains to be the BEST performer for thermal compounds)
    Just pick up a bottle of that, or the Antec Silver Compound... Amazing.. It's the same stuff. ;)

    Well, I guess that's all for now.
     
  17. dave holbon

    dave holbon Moderator

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    Moving to 64 bit platforms now cannot be a good idea for the average PC user, there are so many things missing like drivers, operating systems and a whole plethora of other things like (for instance) software. Motherboard designs are also changing with PCI express and DDR2 to say nothing of the old ATX standards being abandoned. Of course if finances are not a concern and you don’t mind using proprietary operating systems and applications which for 64 bit have been around a while, then fine, but for the average user who actually has work to do, leave it for another year at least and by then, maybe, there might be some known applications that work on this platform.

    It is mooted that on a properly configured 64 bit system you will obtain about a 20 to 30% increase in speed once the chipsets are optimised (a long way off yet) and unlike the jump from Windows 3 to 98 which took many years to implement, 32 to 64 bit computing will happen very quickly as the memory model is similar.

    The best things happen slowly, the worst in an instant.


    :) :) :)
     
  18. ming

    ming OSNN Advanced

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    I was going to pick the Gigabyte K8NSNXP. BUT, I've found a newer model that should be available soon. The K8NXP-9.

    Here are the main specs:
     Supports AMD Athlon64 FX/ 64 Processor (Socket 939)
     NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra chipset
     PCI-ExpressX16
     2* PCI-Express, 3* PCI slot
     Dual channel DDR400 with 4 DIMMs, support up to 4GB memory
     Dual Power System (DPS)
     Dual Gigabit LAN (Gigabit Ethernet + 10/100 Connection)
     4 * Serial ATA II (nFrce4 Ultra)
     4 * Serial ATA (Silicon Image 3114)
     2 * Parallel ATA
     3 IEEE1394b ports (T.I. solution)
     10 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
     8-channel AC97 audio with Universal Audio Jack (UAJ) support
     DualBIOS™
     Xpress™ Installation, Xpress™ Recovery, Smart FAN, EasyTune™5
     Bundle GN-WPKG, 802.11g wireless LAN solution
     
  19. VenomXt

    VenomXt Blame me for the RAZR's Folding Team

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    anyone feel like updating this hehe
     
  20. Tittles

    Tittles Dabba Dooba Political User

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    You can :p