CPU speeds have been increasing very quickly over the past few years and have now reached the 64-bit mark. AMD’s release of their Athlon 64 3200+ was a landmark for the computing world. AMD released two models, the Clawhammer which is a socket 754 Athlon 64 and the Sledgehammer which is a socket 940 Athlon 64 FX. The only real difference between the the two is that the FX model has a dual channel memory controller while the regular Athlon 64 only has a single channel memory controller.
Below is a magnified image of both the Clawhammer and Sledgehammer core, as you can see they are identical. The only differentiation between the two like I mentioned earlier is that the FX has a dual channel memory controller built in. This new Athlon 64 core boasts 105.9 million transistors which is more than double that of the Athlon XP Barton core which had 54.3 million transistors. This new core also has Intel’s SSE2 built in which should give applications that use this instructions set a good performance boost.
The block diagram below gives a bit of explanation as far as what each part of the core is deigned to do. Some of these new features are not fully being taken advantage of yet because of other hardware being behind. The enhanced virus protection that will come with SP2 for Windows XP looks pretty interesting. I’m curious to see if this new feature will actually help against viruses.
These new processors output up to 80w of heat therefore a better cooling solution was needed. With this socket 754 interface gone are the days of capacitors getting in the way or large heatsinks. No longer do we need to fear damaging the core of the CPU because AMD has integrated a heat spreader like that of the Pentium 4. Also with this new cooling solution you don’t have to worry about having your screwdriver slip of some heatsink clips causing you to damage your motherboard. This new solution is quite similar to that of the Pentium 4 with a plastic retention frame, the heatsink will simply clip into place.
The retention frame is held on by a metal or plastic plate on the back of the motherboard. This plate also provides protection for the motherboard so the force from the heatsink will not bend and warp the PCB. I have seen PCB warping happen from waterblocks on video cards and motherboards and its a pretty scary sight. This particular back plate came with my Albatron K8X800 Pro II.