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AMD Athlon 64 3400+

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Review It wasn't long ago that the Athlon 64 family of CPUs was launched by AMD and it has already had two new additions: the 3000+ and now the 3400+. The only difference is the speed. The 3400+ clocks in at 2.2GHz, making it as fast as the Athlon 64 FX-51 processor in terms of raw gigahertz. But as we know from past experiences with AMD processors, gigahertz isn't everything, and the 3400+ is an amazingly fast CPU. It might not be that much faster than the 3200+ but it is one of the quickest - if not the fastest - consumer-level processors around, although this is somewhat dependant on the application used, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.

I wouldn't compare the 3400+ to the likes of the FX-51 or the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition as these processors are not targeted at the mainstream market. So what we are left with is the 3.2GHz Pentium 4 and the Athlon 64 3200+. The Pentium 4 still has the edge in some specific applications that are optimised for Intel CPUs but in pretty much anything else, the 3400+ will be the fastest CPU realistically available to most of us.

Like all AMD chips, it lacks the HyperThreading support of the Pentium 4, but unless you regularly use multi-threaded applications you won't find this much of a problem. As with all Athlon 64 processors (bar the FX-51) it also has a single-channel memory controller, which does limit performance somewhat. This can be seen if you pitch it against an FX-51 with its dual-channel memory controller.

The Athlon 64 family of processors feature 1MB of cache which is twice that of the Pentium 4 and the latest generation of Athlon XPs. Of course the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition has 2.5MB of cache, but then it costs over twice as much as the Athlon 64 3400+.

Talking of pricing, AMD has definitely got it right with this new chip. The 3400+ comes in at around £10 more than the Pentium 4 3.2GHz which is quite amazing for a brand new processor. This still puts it out of reach for most of us - at £316.47 it is far from cheap, especially when you can get the 3200+ for just over £200. On the other hand, if you want to have the bragging rights to the fastest processor without taking out a mortgage, then this is the one to get.

Of course you also get a true 64-bit desktop processor, but as the only 64-bit operating system currently available is Linux, this won't hold too much appeal for most users yet. Hopefully 64-bit Windows XP will appear soon, but of course you'll still have to wait for 64-bit applications and device drivers.

So how did it perform? Running our standard set of tests, the results were as expected. Using a Chaintech ZNF-150 motherboard the SYSmark 2002 overall 3400+ score was 17 points faster than the 3200+, with a jump from 270 to 287. Similar results are achieved across the board.

For more detailed numbers, click here. Clickhere to compare the 3400+ with the 3200+ and here to see how it matches with the P4EE.

The Athlon 64 3400+ is another step forward for AMD but the 3200+ offers a better price/performance ratio. The Athlon 64 family is still pretty new, and the need to buy a new motherboard may put off some potential upgraders for a while yet. That said, there are bound to be some great Athlon 64 3400+ PC deals from system integrators over the next couple of months. Of course when 64-bit Windows rears its head, you can expect to see a big upturn in Athlon 64 sales.

Verdict

The Athlon 64 3400+ is a step forward for AMD, taking the crown for fastest consumer processor. The asking price is high, but far more reasonable than the FX-51 and the P4EE.

AMD Athlon 64 3400+
Rating 80%
Price £316.47
More info The AMD web site


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