Athlon 64 FX prices jump as AMD readies 4x4 CPUs

Posted by Mark Raby

Chicago (IL) - As AMD and consumers get ready for the release of the FX-70, FX-72, and FX-74 processors, prices for the existing FX-62 and FX-60 products rose in absolute dollar values more than any other processors that we looked at for this week's processor performance charts. At this time, it makes a lot of sense to hold off on buying an FX processor until the release of the new models later this month.

Earlier today, we published some information on near- and mid-term AMD's processor plans, which especially affect the very high-end desktop CPU range. But there are not only new processors but also chips that will be phased out - including the FX-60 and FX-62, which will leave us by the end of the year: Socket 1207 processors supporting the upcoming 4x4 platform will be replacing the AM2-based FX models and enabling AMD enthusiasts to run four processor cores in their computers. For example, the upcoming FX-70 has a speed of 2.6 GHz, while the FX-72 clocks in at 2.8 GHz and the FX-74 at 3.0 GHz. The FX-60 and 62 run at clock speeds of 2.6 GHz and 2.8 GHz, respectively.

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As AMD begins to enter this transition, the FX-60 jumped a remarkable 26%, up $162 from last week to $791 this week. Meanwhile, the FX-62 ranked in as the processor with the second highest increase in terms of absolute dollar values, rising $34 from last week's average price of $727 to $761, a 5% incline.

Otherwise, prices remained fairly calm across the board. The only other processors with double-digit percent price increases were Intel's Pentium D 950, which rose 11% from last week's $257 price to $285 and the Pentium D 930 from $169 to $191. Only one processor on the Intel side had a notable average price decrease, which was the Pentium D 820. The 820 dropped $15 from last week, decreasing from $103 to $88 and undercutting the Pentium D 805 for the first time.

For AMD, the biggest price decrease was for the X2 5000+. It dropped 7% or $26, from $366 to $340. Other than that, price fluctuations were quite minimal, leaving the two FX processors to be the main newsmakers this week.

Because of the enormous price jump of the FX-60, making it even more expensive than the FX-62, the FX-60 is certainly the one to avoid this week for those looking to purchase a new processor. Along those lines, it could be argued that purchasing an FX-62 this coming week would not be a smart choice. Because of the superior 4x4 FX models coming out this month, anyone browsing AMD processors at this point should just wait a couple more weeks to get the latest one possible. Of course, Tom's Hardware Benchmarks will get benchmark test results on these new models as soon as possible, at which point we will add them to this weekly feature.

It is unclear at this time how much 4x4 packages will cost, but we expect two FX CPUs to undercut the price of Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6700, which is offered at a tray price of $1000 and will likely enter the $1200 space in retail, due to its limited availability. We suspect that AMD is currently building up its supply of Socket 1207 FX processor to come out in force with its 4x4 platform. While the tray price of a 2-processor 4x4 package could be very close the QX6700, actual retail prices could be significantly lower - we hear that a price range of $800 to $900 mat be realistic - if AMD is able to flood the enthusiast market with these new processors.


Analysis - Intel sandwiches AMD in performance charts

Last week, we received some reader feedback suggesting that we should separate the Intel processor data to better match price with performance among the distinct processor families. We decided to add such a chart to our analysis, but will keep the focus on distinguishing between all Intel and AMD processors. For a full-scale analysis, we believe that it is necessary to look at the big picture and show how all processors blend together.

Because Intel has a wider scale of available processors, we took a representative sample of processors that show the spread of some of the more recent Intel processors versus those of AMD. Of most interest is looking at the overall performance across all models that the company is still supporting.

However, since Intel has come out with more new processor models in the past couple years than AMD has, it is worth taking a look at one graph that shows the breakdown of Intel Pentium D processors versus the Core 2 Duo / Extreme processors to highlight the components that make up the overall analysis graph.

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Almost exclusively because of the jump in the prices of AMD's FX processors, the correlation between price and performance this week dropped to 0.826, a 7% decrease from 27 October's 0.891 correlation coefficient. The slope of the curve also shot up 20% thanks to the FX-62, giving AMD less of an advantage at the low end and a more distinct price differential at the more expensive models. Intel, on the other hand, while only chiming it with a correlation of 0.334, did increase its value from last week (0.331), creating a small closing on the dramatic correlation difference we usually see in this graph.

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Looking at the data without excluded overclocked processors and without the QX6700, we are seeing grew most favorable chart for AMD this week. Because the Extreme Edition processors from Intel have the most effect on its trend line, the $120 additional price attached to the FX-62 doesn't have such a dramatic effect on the comparative shape of the graph.

Taking out the overclocked processors also helps Intel's price/performance relationship, bringing its correlation coefficient up to 0.525, a minimal increase over the same figure from last week, causing a smaller gap in correlation between the two companies than was the case last week.

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As we noted last week, adding in the QX6700 to the equation really helps to define Intel's overall correlation. This week, the relationship measure remained at 0.616, the same number it was last week. However, because of AMD's loss of correlation, it still brings the two closer together in terms of price/performance relationship.

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When we take out the overclocked processors from Intel here, the performance gap at the $500 - $800 level once again is not as obvious, but it is clearly more significant than it was last week. On 27 October, the AMD trend line was nearly a reflection of itself across the Intel line. This week, on the upper side of the Intel line, AMD begins to curve away in a much more defined way. Also noticeable is just how far away the FX-62 point is from the overall trend line. It's more an outlier than we've ever really seen for AMD in the past month or so.

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When we break up Intel's data between Pentium D/EE processors and Core 2 Duo/Extreme, the correlations among groups is significantly higher, with the Core 2 models ranking in at 0.921 and the Pentium D's reaching 0.797. Even though this gives a more detailed comparison, it does not tell us much about how Intel's prices compare to each other as a whole.

However, it does show us that AMD is sandwiched in between the entry-level Intel products and the high-end products, which is also seen in the overall charts because the split between low-end and mid- to high-end processors is where AMD's and Intel's trend lines intersect. Translation: Despite their overall low prices, the Pentium D 800/900 appears outdated and offers far less bang for the buck than AMD. If you are looking for an entry-level dual-core PC, stay with AMD. If you are able to spend more money more on a PC and are comparing higher-end Athlon 64 X2 processors with Core 2 Duos, you'll get more performance with an Intel processor.