Processors keep getting faster and faster, it's one of the huge computing clichés. The latest chip from AMD doesn't deviate from this trend, although it's still something of a surprise. AMD's FX range was originally aimed at the 'enthusiast' market, alternatively known as the gamers-with-lots-of-spare-cash segment. Similar in scope to Intel's Extreme Edition chips, AMD has, until now, stuck with single-core FX chips, because most games aren't programmed with dual-core chips in mind.

There's obviously been a change of ethos for the FX-60, however, as the move to even numbers finally introduces the first dual-core FX chip. This change in scope means that comparisons to previous members of the FX range are difficult, because this is closer to a speed boost for the Athlon 64 X2 4800 than any single-core offering.

Indeed, apart from running at 2,600MHz as opposed to 2,400MHz, this is nearly identical to the 4800 . Each core has access to 128KB of Level 1 cache, split into 64KB of data and instruction caches, as well as 1MB of L2 cache for each core. It also supports 64-bit computing, SSE1, 2 and 3, Cool 'n' Quiet and 3DNow!

When it comes to tangible performance improvements, it depends on which chip the FX-60 is compared to. Relative to the last release from this range (the FX-57), the raw power on offer is phenomenal and almost doubles the Dhrystone results from SiSoftware Sandra 2005, from 12,034MIPS to 22,000MIPS, with a similar story in the floating point tests.

Figures, lots of figures

This is repeated in the benchmark's multimedia test, managing a whopping 49,227it/s as opposed to 26,807. However, things are less impressive when compared to the Athlon 64 X2 4800 , which scores 20,603MIPS and 45,944it/s respectively and is a relatively minor improvement. Performance increases aside, this isn't a chip worth rushing out and upgrading your whole platform to.

The imminent release of the M2 spin-off, the Athlon 64 that supports DDR2 memory, limits the upgrade path for the socket 939 format, because DDR2 requires a new socket. Even if you already have a socket 939 motherboard, the performance you're getting for the price makes the likes of the Athlon 64 X2 4200 a much more interesting dual-core chip. Of course, if you do want the best performance and money really is no object, then this is a phenomenal slither of silicon. Alan Dexter