Catweazle 140 Grandad Team Colleague

“I have seen the future, and the future is………

No, not Baha’I, as famous science fiction editor John W. Campbell wrote all those years ago. In fact nothing startlingly amazing at all. I’m simply dreaming of my own next upgrade!

A few days ago I mentioned that AMD was releasing a new entry level dual core processor, and described it as a “welcome new entry to the processor battles. In the ensuing days, numerous specialist hardware sites have got their hands on the X2 3800+, and the reviews and tests emerging are interesting indeed. Let me summarise what I’ve seen for you:

• The X2 3800+ absolutely ‘spanks’ the Intel entry level Pentium D 820, which is priced considerably lower.
• The X2 3800+ outperforms the competitively priced Pentium D 830 in almost all tasks.
• The X2 3800+ provides more than adequate single-threaded performance, whilst outperforming the best and most expensive single cored processors in multi-threaded performance.
• Early days, of course, but the review samples tested suggest that the X2 3800+ could be an overclockers ‘dream’, reaching levels of performance approaching those of the X2 4800+ on stick air cooling.

Until now I’ve recommended the less expensive single cored processors for anything but heavy-duty multi-threaded computing. The entry level dual-core processors were simply too much of a trade-off, or the entry price simply too high. But it certainly looks like the climate has changed. With Windows Vista looming on the horizon, and multi-tasking already an everday reality to an extent not previously experienced, the time is certainly right for a move to multi-cored computing, and it definitely looks like we have a realistic entry level into that world for all but the most budget conscious of consumers.

Some review summaries to whet your appetite:


There's not much to say here other than that the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ is the clear choice for any user at this price point. What you give up in single threaded performance is more than made up for by the improvements in multitasking and multithreaded application performance.

Bit by bit, AMD is eating away at any possible recommendation that we'd have for the Pentium D. While the Pentium D 820 is still our recommendation at the sub-$300 mark, if your budget can handle it, we'd strongly recommend going for the Athlon 64 X2 3800+.

As for overclocking, we had no problems reaching 2.46GHz with our Athlon 64 3800+ sample using standard air cooling. The overclocking wasn't as impressive as what we saw with the Toledo based Athlon 64 4200+, but we will save a final conclusion on overclocking until we get more Manchester based processors in house.

We really didn't want to see AMD become a more expensive CPU manufacturer, and with the X2 3800+, we finally have a more sensibly priced dual core option. The choice is clear - the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ is better in every way than the Pentium D 830. For Intel's sake in the enthusiast community, Conroe had better be very competitive next year - because ever since Prescott, the Pentium 4 has been an utter disappointment.

The Tech Report

Well, we asked for a cheaper Athlon 64 X2, and AMD delivered. As expected, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ performs quite well in our test suite, which is heavy on multithreaded applications and 64-bit binaries—the types of programs that an X2 purchased today should spend much of its life running. In fact, in multithreaded applications, the X2 beats out AMD's single-core flagship, the Athlon 64 FX-57, more often than not. There is a tradeoff involved in the X2 3800+, because its 2GHz clock speed is relatively low, and as a result, its performance in single-threaded applications is decent, but not stellar. Still, the X2 3800+ plays today's single-threaded games better than any form of Pentium 4 or D.
The Pentium D 820 is still a good value at $241, but I suspect most enthusiasts will think the extra hundred bucks or so is worth it to step up to the X2 3800+. AMD's cheapest dual-core processor generally outruns the Pentium D 840, and in some cases, the Pentium Extreme Edition 840, as well. I'd still like to see AMD compete at the $250 range with a dual-core offering, but I suppose that will come with time. The X2 3800+ is a step in that direction.
In fact, now that the entry point for dual-core Athlon 64 processors has dropped to $354, I am almost ready to stop recommending single-core processors for anything but budget PCs. Unless you absolutely cannot afford it, I'd suggest picking a dual-core CPU for your next system. Even for gamers, there's little point in passing on a second CPU core just to get a somewhat higher clock speed, in my view. The X2 3800+ is more than passable for today's games, and multithreaded game engines and graphics drivers are already on the horizon. For anything but games, having a second CPU around, even if it's just to handle antivirus and antispyware chores, makes perfect sense.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to step out of the way. AMD says these chips should be available for purchase right now. If most X2 3800+ chips overclock like our review sample did, then PC enthusiasts are going to stampede toward this thing en masse.

I'd be expecting to see budget priced systems based on this processor quite soon, and they'll definitely be worth looking out for!

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