Then and Now: Athlon Platforms Compared

Conclusion: Success Relies On Good Chipsets!

The tests with the same CPU on all available platforms show the impact of the chipset on performance quite clearly. An Athlon XP 2000+ combined with an old platform will always be considerably outperformed by a slower processor on a higher quality platform, so in the long run, it's better to buy a better platform than the fastest processor. And there is a practical aspect as well: lower clock speeds mean less thermal heat loss. This means that you can be content with using a slower processor because you can use a quieter CPU fan.

Probably the most important step forward for the Athlon was changing from SDRAM to DDR RAM. Further performance increases were brought about by boosting the clock from 266 to 333 MHz, while the DDR400 was proven to offer very little in the way of extra performance. The reason for this is that the time it takes to synchronize the memory and the FSB clock negates the time gained by the faster clock speed.

It could be a different story with the 400 MHz FSB, but if you consider the impending Hammer processor (Athlon 64, or Opteron), then the Athlon XP is no longer in the picture.

The trend for Athlon platforms, in any case, is Dual DDR. Currently, NVIDIA's nForce2 chipset boasts the highest performance of the day. In addition, it offers more features than comparable chipsets from VIA and SiS. Chipsets from the latter are a little bit less expensive, but for the home user, this is not always the most important factor. At the moment, VIA is working on the KT400A with Dual DDR, so we can expect a close race to come.

The actual conclusion of this article is clear: without the support of chipset manufacturers, AMD wouldn't be as successful as it is today. An Athlon XP with AMD's own 760 chipset would have been hopelessly inferior to the Intel systems.

In this regard, Intel has been following the ideal path of building processors and, at the same time, the reference chipsets to go along with them. This ensures that an adequate platform is always available. There's certainly no need to worry about Intel. Therefore, support for AMD needs to continue. In the end, users can only get good performance from reasonably priced products when competition remains in the market.