Fastest desktop CPU: Athlon 64 X2 4800+

AMD's dual-core CPU for the consumer market has finally been released. The company's Athlon 64 X2 has been widely anticipated because, like its name suggests, it's like having two Athlon 64 CPUs in one package.

Until recently, only high-end workstations and servers could reap the benefits of having more than one CPU in the same machine. This was primarily due to the cost of the hardware (a motherboard with two CPU sockets). With dual-core technology allowing AMD to place two Athlon 64 CPUs into one physical chip, a relatively low-cost desktop motherboard with only one socket can be used to bring multi-CPU computing to our home or work machines.

The Athlon 64 X2 is the same size as current single-core Athlon 64 CPUs and does not require any new hardware - it will work on any Athlon 64 motherboard that has a 939-pin socket. However, some motherboards may need a BIOS upgrade to provide full support for the X2. That's good news for those of us who already have a 939-pin setup, as we can do a significant CPU upgrade without forking out for a new motherboard.

The X2 retains all the features that have made the Athlon 64 such a popular CPU among performance seekers and enthusiasts. It has 64-bit processing, of course, as well as an integrated dual-channel DDR memory controller, Hyper-Transport technology, Cool'n'Quiet Technology, and SSE3 multimedia instructions (for applications that support them).

Each CPU in the X2 sits on the same piece of silicon, so they can "talk" to each other at full speed. They both have access to the memory controller in the CPU as well as the Hyper-Transport link.

Data requests are sent from these to the CPUs using a system request interface, which directs data to the CPU that requires it. Each CPU has its own Level 2 cache memory (size depending on the model you buy).

Initially, the X2 models available are the 4200+, 4400+, 4600+ and the 4800+. The 4200+ runs at 2.2GHz and has a 512KB cache; the 4400+ runs at 2.2GHz and has a 1MB cache. The 4600+ runs at 2.4GHz and has a 512KB cache; the 4800+ runs at 2.4GHz and has a 1MB cache.

We tested the 4800+ for this article. It achieved a record score of 109 in PC Worldbench 5 and was particularly strong in the multitasking, Windows Media Encoder, Adobe Premiere and Photoshop tests.

Verdict If you're a regular user of multimedia applications then put the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ at the top of your shopping list.

It provides excellent multitasking performance and is stronger than Intel's flagship Extreme Edition 840 in some of the most popular CPU-intensive applications, such as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere.

AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Price: $1650 (approx) Vendor: AMD URL: www.pluscorp.biz; www.amd.com.au

Features 10 Value 8 Overall 9

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