Motherboard maker hints at Hammer speed

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and its hardware partners are taking advantage of the Computex Taipei 2002 exhibition to show off motherboard and chipset support for AMD's upcoming Hammer family of 64-bit processors, with at least one motherboard maker giving a hint as to how fast the desktop version of the chip may run when it ships later this year.

A K8A Gem motherboard, which supports the desktop version of the Hammer chip, displayed by Micro-Star International Co. Ltd. (MSI) was accompanied by a list of specifications that described the board as designed for a processor running at 1.6GHz. A second MSI board, the K8H Gem ABIL, on display at the company's booth was also described as designed for a 1.6GHz processor.

By Wednesday afternoon, however, MSI had changed the specifications for both motherboards at its booth, removing the clock speeds for which the boards had been designed. In their place, the company substituted a 3000+ rating based on AMD's True Performance Index. By comparison, AMD's current fastest desktop processor is the Athlon XP 2100+.

AMD officials here have refused to discuss the performance characteristics of the Hammer chips and speculation has varied on how fast the chips are currently running and how fast they will run when they finally ship. "I'm not allowed to talk about the 'M' word," one AMD product manager said, referring to megahertz, the measure for a processor's clock speed.

Most of the third-party Hammer products on display here are for the desktop version of the Hammer chip, which will be sold under the Athlon brand, rather than the workstation and server version, known as Opteron.

On the chipset side, many of the major chipset vendors have rolled out products that will support the desktop version of Hammer. Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. (SiS), ALi Corp., ATI Technologies Inc., Via Technologies Inc., and Nvidia Corp. all plan to ship Hammer chipsets, with several samples on display here.

With the Hammer processor family still in development, all of the chipsets were shown on static display. The only live demonstrations on display were run by AMD using closed boxes, including a demonstration of a four-way Opteron server. Among the features that will be offered for the desktop version of the Hammer are integrated graphics from Nvidia's Nforce chipset and support for Secure Digital cards and Sony Corp.'s Memory Stick on ALi's M1687. Support for AGP8x graphics, USB 2.0 and HyperTransport interconnect technology, which offers a peak aggregate bandwidth of up to 12.8G bytes per second, will also be included.

Alongside the chipset vendors, motherboard makers were also out in force. Joining MSI in showing off Hammer boards were Elitegroup Computer Systems Co. Ltd., Asustek Computer Inc., First International Computer Inc. and Gigabyte Technology Co. Ltd.

Computex runs through Friday, June 7.

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Sumner Lemon

Computerworld
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