IF YOU FOLLOW CPUs at all, you already know that Intel has been pretty much cleaning up with its Core 2 processors. Since this past summer, Intel has had the drop on AMD thanks to an excellent new microarchitecture that delivers high performance with low power consumption--a killer combo. AMD has been creeping slowly ahead itself toward a 65nm manufacturing process and its own new microarchitecture, due in the middle of this year. In the meantime, though, the Athlon 64 has fallen out of favor with enthusiasts somewhat, only making the one of the four primary configs in our latest system guide--and the low-end one, at that.
AMD is looking to stem the tide with the only tools available to it in the short term, and they're both very old-school: a price cut and a clock speed increase. Can these time-worn techniques put the Athlon 64 back on the map in this age of fancy-pants architectural tweaks and CPU cores multiplying like guppies? The Athlon 64 X2 6000+ is a great test case. It now costs less than its natural competitor, the Core 2 Duo E6700, and it has quietly become the first Athlon 64 X2 processor to reach the 3GHz milestone.
The X2 6000+ debuts amid a changing landscape, as well. Windows Vista is here, and the conversion to Vista will likely mean increased uptake for 64-bit software on the desktop. Accordingly, we've moved our CPU testing to Windows Vista x64, with a healthy mix of 64-bit and multithreaded code to run on it. Keep reading to see how the X2 6000+ fares in this new environment.