Athlon 64 goes high end retail
Initial product announcement, shipping of review samples to reviewers like me, initial internet based product review for early adopters and a month long lag (give or take a week or so) until the print mags pick it up and catch the paper hoarders. That's how I usually view new product launches. Which is all well and good, our own little web based microcosm is nice and cosy and we do the computer hardware industry a favour, but thinking about it, we're only half the equation for component manufacturers.
For the majority of PC components, individual sales at retail are far outweighed by sales in OEM systems. It's generally the individual sales market that HEXUS serves too. OEM customers buy big and they buy often, smoothing out the traditional seasonal sales blips that govern the retail buying public. Packing boxes full of quality hardware is their staple diet, so if Intel can sell Dell a million of its new CPUs at once, it'll be happier doing that than trickling out a million units to non OEM e-tailers and traditional store based retailers.
It's OEM design wins that component makers want, a big bulk customer for their hardware that the online reviewers will talk up, generating not only component sales of the evangelised part, but peripheral sales in terms of the box of components it'll sit in, your full PC.
When AMD announced their new 64-bit ISA and processor architecture, it became obvious that early adopter design wins would be key for AMD. They are key to bringing just enough of their new product to market, especially in the consumer retail space, to get over that initial consumer confidence hill that plagues all new designs and products. I'm guessing that AMD was always confident of doing well in the enterprise, research computing and similar markets. It's the consumer space that scared them; would the consumer pick up on Athlon 64 and the subsequently announced Athlon 64 FX? Even if the consumer doesn't buy Athlon 64 initially, getting big OEM design wins to let consumers know that Athlon 64 boxes exist will pay off for AMD in the long run.
So while Dell continues to leave AMD alone, they're just about the only OEM manufacturer doing so. AMD has their initial, first product, design wins; all is well, they may even turn a profit soon. Everyone has an Athlon 64 box for you, should you wish to buy into the technology. And buy into it you should if it fits your budget. We've covered the current crop of 64-bit AMD CPUs at HEXUS already, they are sterling performers and mainboards of good quality are just starting to appear in volume, from all top tier partners. This makes the OEM's decision process easier since they have a larger technology base to choose from, with mainboards available at pretty much all feature set markers, from full featured workstations down to SFF mini boxes.
Given that performance is class leading and the technology is worth the investment, we endeavoured to get a full retail box, built around Athlon 64, that shows what the majority of consumers will be looking at online and in big stores.
HEXUS' first forays into the world of full system evaluation came recently. Tarinder took a look at one of Scan's impressive, if expensive, mid-range 3XS systems. I got Time's UltraStation XP3200+, a full system built around the very best Socket A AMD components at the time (and still is, 2 months later). Expensive again, but a bucketload of performance for your money. It's one of our initial pair of companies that stepped up to the plate again with an Athlon 64 based system for review.
Time were happy to send over their high end Platina Viper FX system, packed with masses of top technology, including the current pinnacle of Athlon 64 performance, the Opteron based FX-51. Clocked at 2.2GHz and accepting only registered ECC DDR memory modules, it's as fast and expensive as it gets in the consumer space for AMD just now. That hasn't stopped AMD getting Time's backing in the UK for these expensive systems. Time were keen to stress that FX-51 was always going to be a product they'd easily build a system around. There must be no shortage of consumers with deep pockets.
The system shipped to us nearly 8 weeks ago, with me the chosen lackey that got to look at it, so I've had plenty of time to get to know the system and its foibles.
So without much further ado, let's take a closer look at what a Time Platina Viper FX system is all about.