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December 14th, 2007
Long Zheng

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This week, Christmas came early in a big black box code-named the "Spider". It has a (engineering sample) quad-core Phenom 9700 2.4GHz processor, AMD 790FX chipset and an 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3850 graphics card


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Shortly after the announcement of Spider and Pheom, benchmarks started trickling out with not-so-good news. At least early-production Phenom review samples suffered problems with stability in what is now known as the TLB errata. If that wasn't enough, the only workaround resulted in dramatic performance loses. As an outsider at the time, it seemed like quite the tragedy.

Having exhaustively used Spider for two day now, I see no reason why AMD will "fall", in fact I believe AMD's on the right path to reclaiming its former Athlon64 glory. It's not there yet, with Intel's Core 2 Extreme and Nvidia's Geforce 8800-series delivering marginally better performance, but there's room for improvement down the road..

Platform-wise, Spider is actually a great idea. Sure, it's purely marketing and branding but it's worked wonders for Intel.


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Performance-wise, Spider is nothing short of a top-tier experience. Again, it's not number one, but it's pretty damn close.



I trust Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT) to be a pretty good judge of real-world performance and in this case it's peaked at 5.9, the artificial limit imposed by Microsoft currently.


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Currently my system is far from the default factory state, so I won't post any synthetic benchmark results since they're a little disconcerting, but there's plenty of professionally-accredited benchmarks to go around. I believe my Phenom 9700 chip also suffer from the TLB errata which adds at least a 10% performance burden. Fortunately this problem will be fixed in the retail versions shipping next year.

Playing Team Fortress 2 at 1680Ã-1050 with 8xAA and 16xAF around 70fps constant is easily just short of pure bliss. I've also been able to finally experience Crysis for the first time which looked fudging-unbelievable under DirectX 10. Remarkably the Radeon HD 38xx series is also the first to support DirectX 10.1. Last but not least, a game which is not receiving as much attention in benchmarks as it should, Solitaire also runs very well.


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In conclusion, Spider is a meaningful brand and a great desktop platform. For Phenom, a few early adopters suffer the fate of a rather significant design flaw, but hopefully when the Phenom models (re)launch early next year, the problem will have been fixed. For ATI, Radeon HD 38xx is a great high-end GPU that only falls a little short of the more expensive NVIDIA counterparts. But if money is no object, you can't go wrong with four of them in CrossFire X configuration.

WORD

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