IntroductionAMD Athlon 64 3000+ Winchester CPU Overclocking
Perhaps the single-most popular question we get asked is which CPU should I go for?. Right now, assuming a processor budget of around £100, the choices are considerable. AMD offer up at least two alternatives. Its K7-class Athlon XP is still going strong in budget circles. The S462 CPUs' longevity has been increased by the number of budget chipsets available from the likes of VIA, NVIDIA, and SiS. AMD's also helped matters via a rebranding exercise that's taken on the name Sempron. The fastest Athlon model, XP3200, debuted 18 months ago and still gives an equivalent Pentium 4 a healthy benchmark fight. Last year saw AMD launch its impressive Athlon 64 line, which now is segregated into S754 (single-channel) and S939 (dual-channel) form factors.
Intel, meanwhile, has been ploughing on with the Pentium 4 architecture. It's seen a change in form factor and a significant core revision in the last year, culminating in a 3.8GHz Pentium 4 Prescott today. AMD reckons Athlon 64 is more than a match for Intel's Prescott, and our slew of CPU-orientated benchmarks tend to agree. As you may already know, Socket-939 is AMD's high-performance platform, one that makes use of a 128-bit memory interface, along with an on-die memory controller, 64-bit extension support, and, lately, basic virus protection. The FX-55 is currently the fastest of the S939 bunch, clocking in at 2.6GHz and sporting 1MB L2 cache. It's hugely fast, but out of the reach of most users' wallets.
Savvy enthusiasts often pick a slower CPU that's based on sound technology. These vastly cheaper processors share all the basic core traits of the high-end models and, due to this, tend to run past their rated speeds with ease. Looking at S939 as an example, the AMD Athlon 3000+, running at 1.8GHz, seems to be the one to go for. Priced at around £110 for a full retail model, it brings S939 power to the masses. What's more, AMD has been using these low-end S939 CPUs to perfect its 90nm manufacturing process, which is the die size all Athlon 64s will adopt in the near future. To differentiate between identical speed grades that are based on either 90nm or 130nm technology, AMD refers to the former as Winchester cores and the latter as Newcastle. The distinction is an important one.
A smaller manufacturing process that runs off lower voltages, coupled with a comparatively low clock speed, makes the Athlon 64 3000+ Winchester a perfect candidate for overclocking. That's precisely why we were keen to take it for a review spin. CPU City duly obliged by sending us a retail, off-the-shelf processor. Flick over to see just how well it went.