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AMD Hardware

AMD Bulldozer Will Bring Socket Shift To PCs 219

An anonymous reader writes "One of the most dreaded hurdles on the PC upgrade path is the CPU socket. If socket design changes then you'll almost certainly need a new motherboard when you do upgrade. This is an area where AMD has historically been much better than Intel. Intel tends to change sockets with each generation of CPU — currently there are three types out there, LGA 1155 for Sandy Bridge, LGA 1156 for first generation core and LGA 1366 for the performance Core i7 processors. AMD on the other hand has always tried to keep sockets across generations. When it releases its new Bulldozer core desktop processors later this year AMD is having to make a socket shift from the current AM3 socket to a new one called AM3+. This article discusses the change, issues like backwards compatibility and what the industry is doing to prepare for the socket shift."
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AMD Bulldozer Will Bring Socket Shift To PCs

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  • Is it necessary? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by colinrichardday ( 768814 ) <> on Monday April 04, 2011 @04:10PM (#35712694)
    Perhaps you can only maintain backward compatibility so far.
    • by rrhal ( 88665 )
      Its for people that are looking at buying now. Real soon now you will be able to buy AMD motherboards with AM3b sockets on them. These boards will run current AMD socket 3 CPU's. They promise there will be a BIOS patch so that these boards will run Bulldozer CPU's when they come out. That way they can sell equipment to fence sitters that might otherwise wait until June when Bulldozer comes out. This article does not imply that you can run Bulldozers on your current board (for 99.999% of you).
    • When you start to talk major architecture shifts, you get other requirements that change as well. Power, memory, chipsets, and so on. Part of that can be a new socket.

      While Intel is rather overzealous with the socket change thing, perhaps doing it just to push motherboard sales, AMD has been perhaps too focused on compatibility, not enough with pushing forward.

      Given that Bulldozer is supposedly a very big change, the new socket is likely very non-optional.

      • This is especially likely now that memory controllers and GPUs and other formerly-motherboard components are now sharing a die, or at least a package, with the CPU. The latency savings cannot be denied; but it does mean that the CPU package needs rather more pins/lands than it otherwise would, and increases the number of things that can make a given socket design either fully obsolete or 'works; but not as designed'.

        There is certainly a point past which changing sockets all the time is just about extract
        • by rrhal ( 88665 )
          In this case the DDR3 memory standard is just fine for Bulldozer and AMD just upped the HT speed between the CPU and the 800 series chip sets. Most of the platform change is happening inside the CPU or the 900 series chips.
        • by jfengel ( 409917 )

          the CPU package needs rather more pins/lands than it otherwise would

          More lands? Because it has insufficient mana?

          Not a hardware guy, so I had to look that up. What's the advantage of a land array over a pin array? (I did try to google it, and the one page I found talked about how pins bend, but is a bent motherboard pin better than a bent chip pin?)

    • Not only is it not necessary, it's also not true that AMD have been better – AMD have been releasing a new socket with each CPU arch... they've just not been releasing any new CPU archs!

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday April 04, 2011 @04:11PM (#35712710)

    I've built a lot of computers and have never once reused a motherboard. MB cost is trivial and usually comes with improvements--such as a faster FSB/more memory slots, etc. So even if my old MB could accept my new CPU, I would probably still buy one. And since I stopped gaming, I upgrade so rarely now that my old MB almost never supports the new CPU anyway.

    Are there really people out there who upgrade their CPU's so often that this is even an issue?

    • No kidding. To my mind RAM compatibility is probably a bigger issue.

      • Which is why you typically don't throw out your motherboard because a new board invariably means you have to buy new ram.
        • by Pentium100 ( 1240090 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @04:51PM (#35713240)

          The worst shift that I remember was AGP to PCIe - you have to buy new video card if you want a new motherboard (or better, buy a new CPU, replace MB, RAM and VGA just to be compatible) and gaming cards are not cheap. At least with ISA/PCI/AGP you could still use the old card while you save the money for a new one. While I have a few AGP video cards laying around, if my PCIe VGA failed, until I repair it or buy a new one, I'd have to use a PCI VGA made in 1995.

          • There are plenty of $30-50 PCIe graphics cards available. Mind you, they're not good for modern gaming... but then, neither is your PCI VGA card. And what motherboard do you have that has both PCI and PCIe slots but not onboard video?

            • Tyan Thunder K8WE
              2xPCIe x16
              2xPCI-X 100MHz
              1xPCI-X 133MHz

            • It could kind of sting a little if you had a high end AGP card and there wasn't really a good upgrade path for. Though I thought it was more annoying the other way around - a perfectly good, but older AGP computer and no good way to drop in a better graphics card (without paying through the nose, especially if you wanted 2x DVI, and even then you had to deal with potential compatibility issues with chipsets that were shoehorned onto AGP which natively did not support it). Granted it doesn't seem so bad no
          • ASRock actually had a solution to this that I owned, known as the 939Dual-VSTA, which offered both fullspeed AGP and PCIe slots. Despite what you might think, it was a shockingly stable board that survived tortuous sessions of Planetside and several amateur computing experiments. It eased my transition to PCIe while even providing an upgrade path to AM2 cores.

            Sadly, it wasn't really available until a good time after PCIe began to go mainstream.
            • by certron ( 57841 )

              I am just now preparing to replace that motherboard because the SATA stuff is crapping out and not booting successfully about 3 out of 4 times. I have a socket 939 dual-core Toledo with the ULi M1695/M1567 chipset that allowed for the AGP (Radeon 9800 XT) and later PCIe video (nVidia 8800 GTX).

              While I didn't take advantage of it, there was the future CPU expansion slot that provided the upgrade path you mentioned but I never found anyone selling the actual socket. Still, an interesting and forward-thinking

            • Asrock always has some interesting boards along those lines. I had a board that support Socket A & Socket 775
          • by Nimey ( 114278 )

            Last time I upgraded, I had to throw out pretty much everything. Old stuff was AGP/Socket A/DDR/PATA, and a 20-pin main power connector, and new stuff is PCIe/Socket 755/DDR2/SATA/24-pin.

            OTOH if I upgrade again, I'll probably wind up keeping just the hard drive, since my power supply's wearing out and it's running at near-max capacity anyway.

            • You could have kept the hard drive/CD drive from you old PC. New motherboards still have IDE connectors (then again, maybe current boards no longer do, last time I bought a motherboard was a few years ago).

              But yea, that sort of "upgrade" pretty much means that you can just build a new PC and use your old one as a server or give it to someone who does not have a PC.

    • As soon as Bulldozer hits I plan on getting a dirt-cheap Phenom II X6 to replace my Athlon II X4 ... which will go back my old motherboard to make a new system for my kids ...

      So a delayed upgrade, and still a 1:1 ratio of motherboard-to-CPU, but an upgrade nonetheless...

      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        I've been waiting to upgrade my Althlon II X2 2.2Ghz into a Phenom II X4^H^H X6 also. This news probably isn't good for us since there will be a lot of people on the same boat who would want to buy the Phenom II X6 as the highest-end CPU for their current-gen MB.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      I've done it on the server side, upgrading from quad core to hex core Xeon's (5500 to 5600) and from Barcelona to Shanghai. When you have thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars worth of DIMM's, lots of peripherals like HBA's, and the time invested in setting up and QA'ing an application environment the small amount of cash to upgrade performance can often be well worth it.
    • By now it's the other way around for me. I upgrade when I think that my motherboard/computer needs new features. The CPU itself is hardly of influence, unless they bring out a much more efficient version (less TDP/watt). The last motherboard I bought was an Asus/Intel. I had problems with my AMD setup under Linux, so I specifically went out for a motherboard that was compatible with the 8GB of memory I had still laying around.

      Besides all that, if there is anything annoying about upgrading a computer, it's t

      • by smelch ( 1988698 )

        CPU fans, my god is there anything worse? I'm in here, between six important looking capacitors, with a screw driver on a tiny lip of metal, leaning all my weight on it. How is this a good idea?

        I have upgraded several CPUs without switching out the motherboard but not lately. I've also switched out motherboards without getting a new CPU. Example: one time my case got some snow in it. I let it all dry out and the motherboard was the only thing that needed to be replaced.

        • Depends on the fan/heatsink.

          I usually use Zalman coolers that attach to the motherboard by screws (though you need to attach a new backplate to the motherboard so it's PITA if the computer is already built) and are quite good at cooling, but a bit expensive.

    • Agreed. I'm much more likely to reuse the case.
    • Good for you. I bought an AM3 chipset with an AthlonII X3 originally. Mobo had DDR3, USB3, SATA3, and 2 PCI-E slots avail at 16x/8x. Bought it when things were thin with an eye towards upgrading when things weren't. Added a Phenom X6 for under 200$, CrossFireX'd cards for cheap, and plenty of DDR3 ram for cheap after the fact. Started at $500. Probably put another 500 into it and kicked the replaced parts into a machine for my wife. Simple and easy with AMD. Damn near impossible with Intel.

      And fo
    • No kidding (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @04:38PM (#35713078)

      I think it is more done out of a "Here's something we offer that Intel doesn't," and maybe an attempt to appeal to the budget oriented crowd that tend to buy AMD.

      Realistically, you probably want to upgrade your board when you upgrade your CPU. There are all kinds of new technologies that come along, not just faster CPUs.

      For example I just upgraded my system from a Q9550 to an i7-2600k. Now of course I had to upgrade the board just because the socket changed, but I would have wanted to anyhow. Off the top of my head, here's the new things my new board gives me:

      1) DDR3 RAM. It has doubled the measured memory speed in my system. That matters a lot for a faster CPU, I'd not get nearly so much benefit stuck on DDR2.

      2) USB 3. I currently have no devices that use it, but the industry seems real interested and I think it is safe to assume I'll be getting some soon.

      3) SATA 3. Again, no big deal right now but I can see getting an SSD in a year or two and it would be useful then.

      4) UEFI. Much more capable than an old BIOS. My particular board has a full command line built in you can boot to for doing diags and so on.

      The board upgrade was well worth it, particularly the memory. No sense in staying on slower RAM when getting a high end CPU. That just hamstrings things.

      Really, it is likely a waste of money to upgrade your CPU more than once every 2-4 years and in that time enough will change that you'll really want a new board anyhow.

      For that matter, you could end up needing one anyhow, even if the socket was the same. A new architecture can require a new chipset and new voltage regulators which would need a new mobo, even if the socket happened to be the same.

      I'm not saying there's anything wrong with using the same socket, but I don't much care if it changes either.

      • 1) While the MB is inexpensive relative to other components (CPU and RAM), it's a big problem for most people to change it. It's much easier to flop on a new CPU and plug some Ram in and they did their upgrade. If they don't do it themselves then they pay a big labor bill to do it. so the price is suddenly high.

        2) It's also a hassle for people to build all-new if they are Windows users .. Windows checks that you have the same MB or it won't run - assuming you "stole it". I run Linux and don't have that
    • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @04:46PM (#35713174)

      Are there really people out there who upgrade their CPU's so often that this is even an issue?

      Since the early 90s my game plan has always been two step upgrades... buy the newest MB with the cheapest slowest CPU available (usually pretty good anyway). Then when the fastest CPU available is cheap (because its pseudo obsolete) I buy that chip and install it on the MB. Over the years I've had plenty of fun... Some boards need to have the BIOS flashed to support the most recent CPUs...

      Looks like the price of AM3 CPUs will be collapsing in the next couple months, so I'll be upgrading the CPU.

      In a couple years or so, lets say late 2012, I'll buy a fancy new "bulldoze" motherboard and the cheapest CPU available for it...

    • That's because you're buying crap MB and/or are uninterested in some of the features a high-end mother board can offer you.

      For example you build a box for a MediaPC /File server. You want it small, you want low power and passive cooling. So you get a $300 motherboard with everything embeded, SATA raid, passive chipset cooling, HDMI outputs, optical audio input, the works. You have this setup for 3 years, it works great, then 3 days before your family comes to visit (they love watching movies on your media p
    • by lanner ( 107308 )

      Uh, yes, there are. I know it must be shocking and completely incomprehensible to you that other people might be different than yourself, but these people do actually exist.

      You must also not be aware of the cost differential between AMD-based and Intel-based motherboards. Intel-based motherboards are substantially more expensive. Go check out Newegg some time.

      AMD uses their longevity sockets as an attractive selling feature, which some of their customers greatly enjoy. It gives their platform more flexi

    • I'm on (I think) my fourth motherboard since late 2000. An early socket A (PC133), a late socket A(?) (DDR), a socket 939, and now an AM3. In the same time I had an 800MHz and 1.2GHz Athlon, an 1800XP+ or whatever, another faster processor on that board, an Athlon64 3000+, an Athlon64 3800+ X2, and now a Phenom II guy. So... I tend to do a CPU refresh at least once per motherboard+RAM cycle. I usually buy the CPUs used after whatever platform I'm on has been discontinued. Cheap bastard. All of the CPU upgra
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @04:11PM (#35712712) Homepage

    Nobody really replaces CPUs. As of a few years ago, 80% of desktop machines were never opened during their lifetime. That's probably higher now, and higher still for laptops.

    • BS. If no one replaced CPUs, why do they still sell them Seperately? If no one makes or go's inside of computers. Why are all the parts still available.
      • Because people do still build their own computers.
      • There's still a market for enthusiasts that build their own machines from parts. You get exactly what you want that way. That's how I get new machines. Granted, I rarely upgrade a CPU without building a new box; I do tend to upgrade video card/memory at least once before I send an old gaming box to a family member.
        • There's still a market for enthusiasts that build their own machines from parts. You get exactly what you want that way. That's how I get new machines. Granted, I rarely upgrade a CPU without building a new box; I do tend to upgrade video card/memory at least once before I send an old gaming box to a family member.

          This describes me pretty well. I want to pick specific components and features (which Intel processor, which graphics and SATA support, etc).

          I have no interest in buying an off-the-shelf box with a motherboard and components picked amongst the lowest bidders paired with the most expensive Intel CPU available. I get a either a bare-bones system or motherboard combo from mwave (paying $10 for them to assemble and test), and I can upgrade to a screamer of a machine for $500 + graphics card (last time that

          • Yup, this. My last system was $370 for all parts including a mid-line GPU. I'm waiting until the older Intel SSDs to drop in price when the new ones are released, then I'll add that into the system, probably bringing it to a total of $400 for a machine that kicks the butt of any brand name PC sold in stores for twice the price. Couldn't have done it without being able to handpick my CPU and mobo.
        • by macshit ( 157376 )

          I build my own PCs simply because I've had such miserable experiences with pre-built computers (much it through work), which usually sound good on paper, but are complete dogs in practice -- e.g., they have a fast CPU, but some sort of bottleneck elsewhere that makes them consistently pokey.

          I don't spend lots of money, and I just pick simple "obvious" things, typically middle-of-the-road CPUs/components, avoiding the fastest, but the resulting computers seem to always feel vastly better than the prebuilt o

      • You do realize that if 80% of desktops have not been opened/modified, that means that 20% have been. That is who the separate CPUs are sold for. That and the big desktop manufacturers - Dell, HP, etc. who could not possibly afford to replace the entire desktop on a warrantied system, and will actually replace the components that fail. Sometimes these are CPUs. (Don't fall into the Slashdot trap thinking that the general public likes to actively mess around inside the guts of their computer systems.)
    • I replaced the CPU three times in my G3 Minitower Mac.

      From a 233 MHz to 366 to a 433 over the years.

    • The title of your post is "No user-serviceable parts inside". How about technician serviceable parts. I'm the geek that gets called on to fix the entire family's computers, and from hard experience I can tell you that having a current AM3 processor that I can dump into a 5 year old PC will really bring things back to life, Also If I have an known good AM2+ board laying around you can test pretty much anything, and testing really helps keep costs down for non-business types.

      Compare with an intel system whe

    • Admittedly, you said "desktops", but I've got a counter-example for you.

      Where I work, we recently were trying to figure out what to do with a quartet of older, out-of-warranty Dell PE2970 servers. They were perfectly good servers, but they were no longer covered under a maintenance contract, so using them for mission-critical services was rather like playing Russian roulette. They might last for another decade, or they might die tomorrow, and if they were to die tomorrow, we would have down t
  • what the industry is doing to prepare for the socket shift

    What is this supposed to mean? What is "the industry" to begin with? People who upgrade their PC are mostly hobbyists at home anyway. Corporate desktops and servers aren't upgraded, they are replaced when they've served their purpose. At least that's my experience.

    • "the industry" is motherboard manufacturers, RAM manufacturers, etc..
      Seriously speaking, there are very very few hobbyists would even think of building their own motherboards.

      They merely buy stuff off the shelf and put it together. They're the consumers, not the industry.

      Thank you for listening. :)

      • by dingen ( 958134 )
        Oh right, that industry. Aren't they thrilled about this, as new sockets mean new customers?
  • by afidel ( 530433 )
    While AMD's sockets have been pin compatible since socket AM2 there have definitely been incompatibilities between chipsets, BIOS's, chips, and ram along the way. The matrix of what's compatible with what is probably too big to fit onto even a B sized plotter sheet. This sounds like much the same thing where you can drop an AM3+ part into an AM3 socket with reduced performance. The only reason I can see doing that would be if you want more performance in a given power envelope as the new chips will give you
    • Re:Uh (Score:4, Informative)

      by Tacvek ( 948259 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @06:38PM (#35714800) Journal

      The following table represents what is possible in theory. Actual support does differ based on board manufacturer.

      . . . . .Type of CPU
      . . . .AM3+ AM3. AM2+ AM2.
      . AM3+ YES. YES. NO.. NO..
      O AM3. YES. YES. NO.. NO..
      K AM2+ ??.. YES. YES. YES.
      T AM2. ??.. YES. YES. YES.

      I suspect that the two I have marked with question marks will have a value of "NO", since doing that would allow AMD to drop support for DDR2 from the new processor designs.

  • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:02PM (#35713418)

    AMD's socket's might carry the same numbers, but the sockets don't always work all that readily. Often seems to be the fault of the motherboard maker, but I've had plenty instances where I bought a new chip only to find out that my mobo, though having a socket that is support by the chip, doesn't support chips of that power draw, or made at a certainly transistor size, or just past a certain point in manufacturing.

    In the end, it's less hassle to just replace the board when you replace the chip either way. In my groggy old age (only 29, but I feel pretty old in computer terms :)) I just don't care about overclocking and whatnot anymore, and if you just want a barebones "plug it in and work at stock settings" board you can usually get one for under $50.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      It's mostly because you are buying $50 motherboards that you aren't getting BIOS updates to support future chips, there's no profit margin in $50 parts to support developing and testing an upgraded BIOS for an old product.
      • I didn't always buy cheap boards, and noticed largely the same thing with more expensive ones. In the end if i'm going to have to replace it anyways I might as well not pay more than the minimum.

    • by macshit ( 157376 )
      Er, well of course if you buy a cheezy low-end MB, it's not surprising that it will be flaky in a lot of ways, and poor support for upgrades is a prime candidate -- but since it will very likely also be flaky even in normal operation, I'm not sure such MBs are really such a great deal. You can buy a $100 MB instead and have great support, solid performance, and double the lifetime of your computer through better upgradibility...
      • That's not the way I've seen it though. In general, the $50 boards behave just fine for me, and aren't "flaky" at all. The only thing I've noticed on more expensive boards has typically been stuff that I might once would have used, but no longer. Better or dual ethernet, overclocking options, more slots and/or ports, etc. Overall, just not stuff I care about when I just want a process running at stock speeds. Sometime within the last 5 years or so computing just became more about what I do on my system

  • we only had one fucking socket type, we wouldn't sell as many units.
  • Geez... I understand your frustration with the current socket, but that's no reason to run over your computer with a bulldozer. Wait, what?
  • by acid06 ( 917409 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @05:26PM (#35713800)
    It may be silly but this is the sort of thing that makes me keep buying AMD. It shows they still respect their "power users".

    I bought an Asus M2N-E motherboard several years ago for a single core Athlon 64 processor. Today, this same motherboard runs a Phenom X4 processor. And it will still hopefully serve other family members for some years when I finally switch it.

    It may be silly, but I believe that all those "green aficionados" should be congratulating AMD. While Intel makes sure everyone needs to replace their MBs every year (and a lot of those go to the trash), AMD gives you another choice. Sure, most people just end up buying everything new again, but at least AMD gives you the choice.
  • Back in the day when I had the time and money to upgrade constantly these socket changes were a major inconvenience and expense. Now I don't upgrade much I just wait until I feel it's time and replace the whole thing. By then not only is there a new socket required, but new memory, new video card with a new DirectX, etc.
  • by hduff ( 570443 )

    Really? AM3 PLUS?

    They couldn't think of anything with less potential for confusion?

    • It's basically the same as AM2+. AM[n]+ means support for both AM[n] and AM[n + 1] processors. Although in this case it's a little different as the processor is not an "AM4" processor, but I guess that's okay since it looks like it will work in (some) AM3 socket chipsets (800-series).

  • In 2004 I upgraded the PIII in my Compaq 1800T laptop from 800mhz to 1000mhz. Tada!

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato