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AMD Athlon 64 : Sun, sea & 64-bit computing
The launch of the AMD Athlon 64 processor has taken us to the lovely Cote D'Azur and more specifically Cannes. The mixture of sea air, beautiful late summer sunshine and the launch of a brand new processor is enough to get any technology enthusiast bursting with joy. Similar events are being held in San Francisco and Taipei.

We've talked in great length about some of the core technologies being launched today, including specific information that was released at the launch, so this little piece is just looking at the fancy stuff that AMD are doing here in Cannes.

As a show of support from industry figures, AMD brought a number of important partners, including Microsoft, SuSe and NVIDIA here to show off their latest products which have native support for Athlon 64. Along with software vendors, AMD were keen to show off a whole range of motherboards that will be available in the very near future.

The vast majority of boards support the Athlon 64, which utilizes a 754 pin design, although a few did support the high-end FX-51 which requires a 940 pin socket. This confirms our view that many motherboard manufacturers see the Athlon 64 as the main money spinning unit, whereas the FX-51 provides a larger prestige element.

The most interesting board here is the one from Shuttle, which has great potential in the popular small-form-factor (SFF) market. The prospect of a SFF 64-bit system is very intriguing, we've seen several already and is a natural progression for companies like Shuttle who have reinvented themselves with such machines.

This IBM thin 'n light design is sporting a mobile Athlon 64 processor. Should AMD make further in-roads by having more design wins with big mobile manufacturers such as IBM, it will really start to take a toll on Intel, as in this market they seem to have held all the aces, until possibly now.

Most important of all is the industry wide support, and AMD not only proudly gave away copies of Windows XP 64-bit Edition (Beta 1 - same as we used in testing), but had representatives from Microsoft, NVIDIA, Ubisoft, Oregan Networks, and DivX talking about their allegiance with AMD.

By the end of the 90-minute presentation a live feed, which was available on the Internet, many journalists started showing signs of aging under the impressive barrage of marketing, kudos must, however, go out to the hack who asked :
"I want the ultimate computer this Christmas, so what should I spend my savings on, a Geforce FX or a Athlon 64 FX-51?"
With much laughter from both journalists and AMD front men, the diplomatic answer of "both" was given, although the real answer is (in our view) slightly different.

It wouldn't be an AMD presentation if Ferrari weren't involved and a full scale F2002 car was displayed at the post launch party, and both Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello did their bit for the AMD cause.

UK Gamer cannot help but think that the only thing holding the Athlon 64 down is a supporting operating system and software. Of course 32-bit software runs great. but as we've seen with our benchmarks, the big "kick" comes from running 64-bit AMD64 optimized applications.
,br> Although AMD and their partners promise the arrival of these applications soon after Windows XP 64-Edition in "Q1 2004", you can't help but feel that if AMD managed to get this processor out when it was scheduled (Q3 2002), software would already be running on our machines.

The Athlon 64 is, in many ways the future but it requires the future to be the present in order for its ultimate performance. Nevertheless, what AMD have released should be seen as an investment rather than a purchase for today.