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AMD Athlon 64 3200+ AMD Athlon 64 3200+, Upgrader's Perspective: We take an A64 and compare it to an AXP at the same clock speed to see if it's worthwhile or not in a 32-bit environment.  
Date: July 5, 2004
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:
 

Unreal Tournament 2003: Antalus, Min Detail @ 640

 
Frames per Second
Athlon 64 @ 2GHz
402.5
Athlon XP @ 2GHz
279.3

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Checkpoint, Min Detail @ 640

 
Frames per Second
Athlon 64 @ 2GHz
212.8
Athlon XP @ 2GHz
126.5

Quake 3: Arena, Min Detail @ 640

 
Frames per Second
Athlon 64 @ 2GHz
487.3
Athlon XP @ 2GHz
248.1

Despite being equipped with similar video cards, and the relatively close performance in our application tests, the A64 stomps all over the AXP in gaming performance. Please note that this is at low resolution and detail levels, and not representative of true gameplay, but we can see from the above results that the A64 should not be a bottleneck for pre-X800/6800U video cards.

Overclocking

Overclocking the Athlon 64 is something we've covered quite a bit in previous reviews. As we've seen in these reviews, your overclocking success will vary greatly depending on your motherboard and cooling. Using K8T800 motherboards, we've had various levels of success in the 215FSB to 225FSB range. The lack of dividers on this platform probably had a lot to do with it.

On the NVIDIA nForce 3 250Gb, our results varied as well. The K8N allows for overclocks of up to 300FSB, and paired with our Koolance EXOS-Al, we managed to dial in this overclock in the BIOS and successfully POST and get into Windows. However, the system tools reported a 1200MHz clock speed which we thought is impossible. Heading back to the BIOS, our system was indeed running at 12x100, despite the BIOS settings at 12x300. According to our MSI contact, the board features some sort of watch dog timer that resets to safe settings if it cannot handle the overclock. We clocked back to defaults, and managed a 12x232FSB before the OC reverted to 12x100 again.

Final Words

As we've seen today, the Athlon 64 really is a substantial upgrade over the Athlon XP is several categories, particularly when it comes to multimedia and gaming. If you're running an Athlon XP now, is it worth the jump based on this performance? That depends.

Make no mistake... the Socket 754 is on the way out. Picking up an A64 based on this socket will guarantee you will need to buy either a new CPU or motherboard if you're looking for another upgrade in about six months. By the same token, Socket 939 CPUs are very expensive, and the Socket 754 will give you a performance boost if you're looking for a relatively "budget" upgrade right now. Let's look at some current pricing:

Athlon 64 3400+ - Socket 754:
Athlon 64 3500+ - Socket 939:

As we can see, if you're looking at the $500 range, there isn't much of a price difference between the 754 and 939, especially when you consider the 100 performance rating between the two of them. The 3200+ we've looked at today rings in at a much cheaper . Add in the K8N motherboard we used today at , and you can have a 64-Bit setup for the price of one Socket 939 CPU.

Ed. Note: I just got an email from CompUSA about the A64 and to point out the Enhanced Virus Protection (EVP) is not limited to the 64-Bit Edition of Windows once Service Pack 2 is released this Fall. Also, something we've mentioned in the past, 64-Bit apps should in theory run faster once Windows XP 64-Bit Edition arrives. However, the rep at CompUSA also says 32-bit applications will run 25-50% FASTER in Windows XP 64-Bit
Edition.

Pros: Great performance, relatively cheap.

Cons: 939 CPUs are out, phasing out the 754.

Bottom Line: As a short term fix, the Socket 754 still has some life left to it. You will not be able to bring it with you later on though, as many manufacturers are only making Socket 939 version motherboards based on the newer chipsets. Availability is still limited for the 939, and Socket 754 systems are something that are readily available now.

If you have any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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