At The Last Second: AMD's Trump Card - The Athlon XP 2600+

Conclusion: An Upset In The Power League

With the launch of its Athlon XP 2600+, AMD has provided a big surprise: at the last minute, and without warning, the new CPU with the Thoroughbred "B" core landed at the THG lab in Munich. Compared to its predecessor, the Thoroughbred "A," this one shows above all that a significantly higher clock rate (this top model now runs at 2133 MHz) automatically means greater speed. In the benchmark tests, the Athlon XP 2600+ manages to surpass the Intel Pentium 4/2533 once more, but not in all disciplines .

This brings AMD back in the running. These excellent results were achieved by modifying the CPU core, where the manufacturer has added an additional layer of interconnects. There have been no real changes to the CPU design at its transistor layer. The new Thoroughbred core is distinguished from the previous one by the "B" at the end of its name.

There's also some good news for friends of overclocking: the Athlon XP 2400+, which is also well-suited for overclocking, is to be had for a more reasonable price. In the THG lab, we took the 2133 MHz model, combined it with a watercooling system, and were able to overclock it to 2400 MHz, which corresponds to an Athlon XP 3000+. An extreme increase in clock speed is only possible with ice-cooling, for a CPU die temperature of -41 degrees Celsius, at which even 2800 MHz (corresponds to Athlon XP 3600+) can be attained.

Intel P4's seemingly permanent performance lead has been broken. AMD's CPU has succeeded in becoming a powerful rival to Intel's top P4 model. At the same time, the power consumption has been lowered, allowing more room for higher clock speeds. Above all, Intel should brace itself for the near future, because successor of the Thoroughbred "B," the Barton core, will work with a double L2-Cache. To top it off, the identical interconnect technique will be used as it is with the latest T-bred . The only way out is to go for the higher megahertz regions, and those beyond the 3 GHz limit are soon to be exploited. Here, at the very least, the two manufacturers are sure to pull out their secret weapons.

And, to look at things another way, the system performance for each platform is strongly affected by the combination of chipset and processor. Despite the use of the fastest DDR333 memory (CL2.0), the memory performance lags quite far behind the scores made by the Intel 845G chipset for the P4 platform. It is most likely because of this that AMD has adjusted the model number to be lower.

[Update on Aug 23, 2002 for clarification: Rambus platforms with PC1066 memory offer more memory bandwidth compared to DDR333 platforms. Therefore, memory -intensive benchmarks show that Rambus has a performance advantage over DDR333. The overall performance is also affected by the bandwidth of the Front Side Bus. The major disadvantage the Athlon has compared to the Pentium 4 is its lower FSB bandwidth.]