Like the Onion's Jackie Harvey, we incorrectly referred to AMD's quad-core desktop platform as " Socket 4x4" when we first learned about it, mostly because we couldn't get confirmation of the name of the thing during the investor phone conference in which it was announced. Our bad on that. But with AMD's unveiling today of Quad FX, aka simply "4x4," we can finally address the whole package with a little more clarity.
Aimed strictly at PC enthusiasts, AMD's answer to the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 is a bit more convoluted than Intel's. Instead of putting a single quad-core chip on a motherboard, Quad FX boards will accept two AMD dual-core chips, each plugging into its own independent socket. But you can't just stick any old Athlon 64 X2 or FX chips on a Quad FX motherboard. Instead, you'll need one of AMD's new Athlon 64 FX-70-series packages, which will give you two CPUs. In order of cost and performance, a pair of Athlon 64 FX-70s will go for $599, a pair of FX-72s is $799, and two FX-74 chips will cost $999. AMD claims these chips will be available from retailers today, but as of this writing, NewEgg.com had no FX-70-series CPUs listed.
Assuming the retailers stick to AMD's recommended prices, we'll give AMD credit for the cost. We were concerned that a two-chip solution would cost twice as a single Intel chip, and AMD has allayed those fears. The $599 FX-70 and the $799 FX-72 also beat Intel to the punch as far as spreading quad-core across multiple price points. Right now, Intel's only quad-core option is its $1,000-plus QX6700. It's a good thing AMD has a few more options, too, because at the high end, benchmarks from around the Web don't look good for the FX-74.
With no Quad FX hardware of our own to test, we'll direct you to the coverage over at HardOCP and Tom's Hardware for a full set of benchmarks. Each site has its own take, and based on the scores presented, our opinion is more in line with Tom's than iwith the HardOCP crew. Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6700 gets the win, because it's faster overall by a small but measureable margin, it's twice as power efficient, and you don't need to lay out as much cash for the surrounding memory, power supply, and motherboard to get the most out of it. HardOCP took a more forgiving stance, which has stirred up a lively debate in their comments section.
We should mention a point that both of those sites also acknowledged. AMD has announced that next year it will offer native quad-core chips that you can plug into a current Quad FX motherboard (with the Asus L1N64-SLI WS Dual-Socket currently your only option). In other words, Quad FX has a clear upgrade path to eight-core computing. The same is currently possible with Intel's quad-core Xeon 5355 chips and a dual-socket motherboard (as our own Daniel Begun showed over in CNET's Labs earlier this month), and Intel also hosted a gaming-oriented demo this week (convenient timing) with an unspecified dual-socket Intel motherboard running two quad-core Xeon 5350 chips. But as of now, there's no consumer-oriented dual-socket motherboard that will support two Intel quad-core CPUs on the market, so the consumer upgrade path to a two-chip eight-core system currently belongs to AMD. Both CPU vendors have also mention native eight-core chips on their respective road maps.
If you're interested in purchasing a Quad FX-based PC today, our in-box has turned up two options this morning. Both Maingear and Velocity Micro announced that they will be offering Quad FX-based desktops. Velocity Micro hasn't updated its Raptor 64 DualX configurator yet, but Maingear's update is live, with its Beast desktop starting at $3,847.53 for an FX-70-based config. Vigor and Cyberpower have also been mentioned as Quad FX launch partners.