Motherboard Memory Lane: AMD Socket AM2+, DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RSH and AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE

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Motherboard Memory Lane: AMD Socket AM2+, DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RSH and AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE

The subject of this week’s Motherboard Memory Lane article is the AMD AM2+ platform. Strictly speaking the AMD AM2+ socket is historically the successor to the Socket AM2 and the predecessor to Socket AM3. The AMD AM2+ Socket was launched alongside the company’s first true quad-core and tri-core processors; the AMD Phenom series. Let’s take a look at the platform itself, the processors that it supported, the boards that were popular and of course the scores that were made by HWBOT members at that time.

AMD Socket AM2+: Overview

After the roaring success of its K7 Athlon architecture CPUs and its follow up, the K8 Hammer architecture which brought us the first 64-bit, dual-core processors, the K10 architecture (technically referred to as the AMD 10h Family) arrived with a new Phenom brand name and the company’s first true (monolithic) quad-core processor series. Sounds pretty exciting, but in fact the new platform was received by tech media and enthusiasts with some real disappointment. Let’s look at why this happened.

Clock speeds were lower than expected, the platform remain limited (initially at least) to DDR2 memory and suffered a from translation lookaside buffer (TLB) bug that could cause a system lock-up (in fairly rare circumstances). Perhaps even worst of all, the new AMD Phenom chips simply could not keep up with Intel’s performance. You could almost point to the AM2+ launch as the beginning of the company’s drift into the void of non-competitiveness. A void from which it is only now, ten years later, beginning to return, thanks to its new Zen architecture offerings.

The AM2+ socket itself is actually identical to the previous generation AM2 socket. The two sockets shared a degree of co-compatibility. AM2 processors were supported on newer AM2+ motherboards. Likewise AM2+ processors were also compatible with AM2 motherboards. However, if you used a newer AM2+ processors on an AM2 motherboards you would be faced with certain limitations due to the specifications of Socket AM2. Specifically AM2 boards supported only HyperTransport 2.0 which was limited to 1GHz, whereas newer AM2+ boards could offer HyperTransport 3.0 which scaled up to 2.6GHz. AM2+ also supported two separate power planes; one for the CPU itself and one for the integrated memory controller which supported speeds of up to DDR2-1066MHz.

The fact that AMD AM2+ did not offer DDR3 support was also a source of pain for AMD users at this time when Intel (again) showed their willingness to build platforms that could use next generation memory, enabling a gradual transition to DDR3 in this case with the P35 platform that had arrived several months before AM2+. As with the DDR to DDR2 transition, AMD preferred to wait until DDR3 had matured, become more affordable and meaningful in terms of actual performance. Indeed history has a tendency to repeat itself with AMD supporting DDR4 with Ryzen, long after Intel debuted mainstream DDR4 support on Skylake.

In terms of chipsets, we find the most popular chipset used by HWBOT members to be the AMD 700 series, most notably the high-end 7790FX Northbridge chip (usually paired with AMD SB600 or SB750 Southbridge chips). The 790FX arrived in November 2007 and supported a pair of x8 PCI Express 2.0 lanes for graphics cards plus 6x single PCIe lanes. It also included support for DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort digital display outputs, plus VGA. It offered 12x USB 2.0 ports, HD audio, 6x SATA 3.0Gbps ports plus a single IDE (PATA) slot.

Most Popular AMD Socket AM2+ Motherboard, the DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RSH

In the last week’s article we noted how many vendors appeared in the top ten list, indicative of a busy, competitive market with six companies represented on the list. Fast forward a couple of years and the AM2+ top ten features only four vendors, most of whom are still around today. Let’s take a look at the top ten and the boards that were popular in the era of the AM2+ socket.

  • -DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RSH – 6.91%
  • -DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RS – 6.63%
  • -GIGABYTE MA790X-UD4P – 4.53%
  • -GIGABYTE MA790X-UD3P – 4.49%
  • -ASUS M4A79 Deluxe – 4.31%
  • -ASRock AM2NF3-VSTA – 3.25%
  • -ASUS M3A79-T Deluxe – 2.83%
  • -ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe – 2.80%
  • -GIGABYTE MA770-UD3 – 2.79%
  • -ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe/Wireless Edition – 2.73%

After an utterly dominant display in the Socket 939 era, DFI have a slightly underwhelming time during the AM2 period. With the AM2+ however, the company enjoyed what might be regarded as a swan song of sorts, taking top spot with the two most popular motherboards of the era. The DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RSH and the DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RS together represent 13.54% of all AM2+ submissions (the main difference between the two being the updated Southbridge from AMD SB600 to SB750).

After being entirely absent from the top ten last week, GIGABYTE are very much part of the AM2+ enthusiast segment with three boards and 11.81% of submissions. ASUS does even better with four boards and 12.67% of the top ten pie. ASRock have just one board in the top ten. MSI, ABit, Biostar, Foxconn and Epox are entirely absent. Of those five, only MSI would find a way back.

The DFI design team, led by Oscar Wu were well respected at this time for producing quality, affordable boards that offered truly leading performance without the excessive bling associated with high-end boards – i.e. exactly the kind of board that overclockers crave. The DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RSH delivered on these fronts once again. member OrhpanShadow had this to say in his review of the DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RSH:

”This is a solid overclockers board. The feature set ensures that you will be able to get high overclocks out of your processor, even more so with the inclusion of AMD’s ACC. Triple Crossfire is a bonus for those who thrive on multicard setups. The layout of the board is excellent to this end. The increase in the number of SATA connections also stands out as a bonus. AMD Overdrive also work an absolute charm here. Transitions between OC’s was smooth and changes kicked in almost immediately. As far as the new cooling system, it does have some slight advantages, although the NB still gets quite toasty under full load, topping out at about 61c.” – DFI LanParty 790FXB-M2RSH Review.

Most Popular AMD Socket AM2+ Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 940

After the largely disappointing launch of the first AMD Phenom processor lineup in late 2007, the company made a solid retort with the sequel, the AMD Phenom II series. Indeed for most enthusiasts it was exactly what the original Phenom should have been. The most popular AMD AM2+ processor to date is the AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition, a chip that came at the top of the new and improved product stack, retailing for around $275 at launch. It represents 6.85% of all AM2+ submissions. The second most used AM2+ CPU is the AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE with 3.38% of all submissions.

Launched in January 2009, the AMD Phenom II X4 940 was based on the Deneb architecture and was manufactured using the 45nm process. It featured a much larger 6MB L3 cache (compared to 2MB on Phenom I Chips) and a much larger transistor count of 758 million (compared to 450M on Phenom I). It had a default clock speed of 3.0GHz and a TDP of 125 watts.

This is what ajmatson had to say for back in January 2009:

”For the price, the Phenom II is a killer processor… This review has exceeded what I expected from the new processor and has put a new smile on my face for AMD. Now Intel has some rethinking to do around their price to performance ratio for their processors with this new offering from AMD. If you have that itch to upgrade or build that new gaming rig, you would be a fool not to consider the AMD Phenom II processor.” – AMD Phenom II X4 940 Review.

AMD Socket AM2+: Record Scores

We can now take a look at some of the highest scores posted on HWBOT using AMD’s Socket AM2+ platform.

Reference Clock

Reference clock overclocking may not be the most important benchmark in today’s world, but back in the AMD Socket AM2+ era, it was a crucial way to determine a motherboard’s ability to perform well. The highest reference clock submitted on HWBOT using this platform came from Germany’s stunned_guy in June 2011 who used a DFI LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RS board to eek out a reference frequency of 458MHz using an AMD Athlon X2 5000 ‘Deneb’ CPU.

You can find the submission from stunned_guy here on HWBOT:

CPU Frequency

Although raw CPU frequencies are not really treated as true benchmarks today, they remain an important performance metric for most overclockers. The highest CPU frequency ever submitted to HWBOT on the AM2+ platform came from Taiwanese legend coolaler who pushed an AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE ‘Deneb’ CPU to a massive 6,517.52MHz (+117.25%) using LN2 and a LANparty DK 790FXB-M2RS motherboard.

You can find the submission from coolaler here on HWBOT:

SuperPi 32M

Finally we come to the classic SuperPi 32M benchmark, an important benchmark in terms of historical relevance. The fastest SuperPi 32M run submitted on HWBOT on the AM2+ platform was submitted by French overclocker Raven29 who managed a run of 12min 30sec 470ms using an AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE ‘Deneb’ chip clocked at 5,773MHz (+92.43%). Unfortunately the validation screenshot is no longer available.

Check out the submission from Raven29 here:

Thanks for joining us for today’s trip down Motherboard Memory Lane. Return next week when we will look upon the AMD Socket AM3 platform and the motherboards, chips and scores that defined that particular era.