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AMD's and Intel's End-of-Year CPU Buyer's Guide

The Standard: AMD AthlonXP

The AthlonXP 3200+, here on a board featuring nVIDIA's nForce2 chipset.

AMD scored the greatest success in the company's history with the Athlon: it enabled the 1 GHz threshold in the Slot A (Orion K7 core) to be passed before Intel managed the same thing with the Pentium III.

The following year, Intel threatened to leave the Athlon Thunderbird standing with the first Pentium 4. The latter's clock speeds were rising much too fast for AMD's liking. As a result, AMD introduced a performance rating that was designed to illustrate the performance of the next CPU generation called AthlonXP (Palomino core with 133 MHz DDR system speed): an AthlonXP 2000+ should stand up to a Pentium 4 with 2,000 MHz, although it works at a mere 1.66 GHz. In practice, these statements generally bear out, depending on the Athlon model and benchmark used.

AMD still maintains this performance rating, as its architecture continues to differ so wildly from Intel's technology that a basis for comparison is needed. For example, there's the AthlonXP with Thoroughbred and Barton cores, the former with up to 2800+, a maximum 2.2 GHz and 166 MHz system speed, the latter as a 3200+ with 200 MHz system speed at the same CPU speed.

The platform for the Athlon has also undergone considerable changes over the years: from PC133 SDRAM, to type DDR266, DDR333 and DDR400 DDR SDRAM (dual data rate) right up to Dual DDR400 (dual-channel memory) with nVIDIA's latest nForce2 chipset. The last was a groundbreaking innovation for the Athlon that resulted in a giant leap in overall performance thanks to better memory efficiency.

Following the launch of the Athlon64 and 64 FX, AMD is unlikely to make huge efforts to prolong the AthlonXP's life through new models or the like. Nonetheless, the Socket A will remain on the market for months yet, as the processors are very reasonably priced in the mid-speed range and the platforms are mature.

Performance adequate for months to comeNo prospect of upgrading above 3200+
Reasonably priced platform
Mature components