Sunday, December 10, 2006

AMD Athlon 64 3000+ (51-watt)

Summary: to upgrade yet reuse my existing RAM and AGP card, I upgraded to an old socket 754 AMD Athlon 64. Given total cost (with shipping) was under $100, I'd say result was successful.

You all know how computer "fixes" tend to creep and grow. This upgrade started because I decided my worker-bee system (acting as file server, DVR, and media player) was starting to stress its old Celeron CPU - even with a whiny stock cooler I'd seen the temperature hit 170+ degrees F. So I figured why not upgrade the AMD Athlon XP in my for-fun system and hand-me-down the XP CPU to be the worker-bee? The XP rarely hits 105 degree F.

Well, as much as I'd love moving to a spank'n new AMD X2 dual core (blah-blah-blah), that would mean $300+ for new DDR2 RAM, $150 for an AM2 motherboad, $200 for new PCI-express graphics card worth owning, not to mention the $100-300 for a good CPU. Plus with Intel's latest DuoCore Extreme beating AMD's X2 by 30% to 70% I suspect this next year is going to be an amazing technology race. Next summer the dual-core (or quad-core) CPU will be perhaps a few 100% faster and take less power.

So I started by looking through motherboards for something with an AGP slot (for my ATI Radeon X1600 AGPx8) and using DDR400 / PC3200 RAM. It turned out the "newest" motherboards to support this combination were the socket 754. This limited me to an AMD Athlon 64 - something one doesn't see for sale much. I finally found a nice $58 deal at
newegg (dot) com; adding an old S754 motherboard means the entire upgrade is in the $80 to $100 range.

Digging a little deeper, it turns out this particular A64 model is actually something in the Mobile Athlon family, so it burns a maximum of 51-watts, instead of the standard 89-watts of earlier Athlon 64 processors. This struck me as a fortunate "accident" since cooler means quieter and that is something I value.

Basic specs from AMD's web site: Details for this AMD Athlon 64

  • Processor AMD Athlon™ 64, Model 3000+ (P/N ADA3000AIK4BX)
  • Operating Mode: 32/64, Stepping E6
  • Frequency: 2000Mhz, HT Speed: 1600
  • Voltage: 1.40V Max Temp: 65°C
  • Thermal Power: 51W (older models were 89w)
  • L1 Cache: 128KB, L2 Cache: 512KB
  • CMOS Technology 90nm SOI, Socket S754

So ... where is the $$ "creep" in project? Well, it started with a $29 copper after-market cooler since I wanted to leverage the value of my new low-watt CPU. After getting it running, this sweet little A64 idles at about 77 degree F and heats up to about 85 degrees F max when fully loaded! Upon power-up, it is satisyfing to hear the turbine-whine of the cooler drop to silence in a few seconds as the motherboard takes control of the cooler fan. In fact, for the first few days I had this urge to keep looking at the fan to make sure it wasn't faulty because it runs so quiet.

My worker-bee system is in a mini-ATX case and only had PC2100 RAM. So I started looking at min-ATX Socket A motherboards for my recylced XP ... long-store short I just decided to buy a second A64 with S754 mini-ATX mobo and another 1GB of PC3200 RAM. Since my worker-bee system runs 24/7 I liked the idea of the quieter fans. So I guess my initial $100 budget has expanded to 2 x $100 for 2 CPU and mobo, $60 for 2 nice after-market coolers, and $200 for 1GB of DDR400 RAM. At least I did suppress the desire to upgrade my for-fun system to 2GB RAM. Hopefully next summer I can re-upgrade the for-fun system to an dula-core AM2.

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