Basically, Intel's nightmare. AMD relased the Athlon fall of 99, and have enjoyed a slowly rising stock price ever since. The processor outperforms Pentium IIIs in style, and costs quite a bit less (roughly $100 for a 850 mhz part). The Athlon series is continuing on with the Duron an Thunderbird series. From a technical standpoint, the processor has a number of improvements for the x86 field:

  • Alpha 200 Mhz EV6 Bus
  • nine execution pipelines: three for address calculations, three for integer calculations, and three for executing floating point instructions.
  • .18 micron fab process
  • 128 kb L1 Cache
  • 256 kb L2 Cache

More recently, AMD has added PC133 support and will shortly have DDR ram support (Upping the Bus speed to 266 mhz) -- with Intel likely to follow suite if their Rambus RIMMS keep giving them the feeling they are feeding a black hole of a technology.

Basically, AMD is the current top dog. Intel is holding market share due to its strong brand recognition and OEM support, but AMD clearly has the better product. The Duron has been introduced to compete with the Celeron, and is quite a bit better, once again, at a lower price. Athlons are not however available for portables, and are quite demanding for other computer components. In the beginning, it seemed as if though the Athlon would never make it to the hands of Joe Consumer because a multitude of motherboard & power supply problems. Now the kinks have been worked out, Intel's rushing out Overclocked junk in the name of competition, but IA-64 tech may leave AMD just another stepping stone of the road for speed.

With Intel's new Pentium 4 range, the Athlon range has pretty much been left in the dust. First of all, the P4 has upped its Level 2 Cache to 512 K, and its Front Side Bus (FSB) has been upped to 533 MHz, over the meager 266 MHz of the Athlon. On top of this, the P4 range now exceeds 2 GHz, going up to 2.6 GHz in pure clockspeed, while the Athlon range is still struggling to break the 2 GHz milestone.

Despite this, as AMD continues to avidly market, its not pure clockspeed that counts. As such, they do not advertise clockspeed, simply having model numbers such as Athlon XP 2200+. So even though the Athlon XP 2200+ runs at a pure clockspeed of 1.9 GHz, its actual performance is the equivalent of a P4 2.2 GHz. But this still doesn't match the blitzing performance of the newer 2.4 GHz, 2.56 GHz and 2.6 GHz P4-Bs, and of course there are other disadvantages.

First of all, the XP 2200+ costs about as much as a P4-B 2.56 GHz, and its not running at the same speed. Second of all, it doesn't support the super fast RDRAM, and although no motherboard to date can take full advantage of its incredible speeds, an Athlon motherboard can only take advantage of 266 MHz, whereas a P4 motherboard up to 533 MHz. This also means that the newer DDR SDRAM that runs at 400 MHz will also be incompatible with the outdated 266 MHz FSB of the Athlons (although DDR 333 MHz is compatible with some of the newer boards), whereas the P4 range can take full advantage of both these speeds; even the older P4s can do so.

Although its unfair to focus primarly on their disadvantages, because there are some advantages. The biggest one is the simple fact that for overclocking, the Athlon range is a beast. It is so versatile that not only can the FSB be overclocked, but also the multiplier, unlike the rigid Pentiums who's FSB can only be overclocked. Therefore, an Athlon XP 2200+ could be made to run at over 3 GHz, theoretically, but of course one would require alot of cooling, and with it would come the increased risk of failure and a shorter chip life.

Overall, the Athlon range has a decent chipset, but I believe it is simply decent, and nothing special, especially for someone such as I who steers well clear of overclocking. I convinced myself to stray from Intel once, who I had been ever so loyal to throughout the years, and I found myself yearning for the old, reliable, Pentium range, but this is simply my perspective.

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