Imitation To Innovation: AMD's Best CPUs

Am386: A 40-MHz 386

In 1991, AMD released its 386 processor. Like its predecessors, this model was identical to the Intel versions. AMD was licensed to produce clones of Intel products, right down to the microcode (the CPU’s firmware). This processor had two notable features. First, it was faster than the Intel model—40 MHz compared to a top speed of 33 MHz at Intel—and it was the first to sport the Windows Compatible logo on the package.

Code name ?
Date released 1991
Architecture 32-bits
Data bus 32-bits
Address bus 32-bits
Maximum memory 4,096 MB
L1 cache no
L2 cache no
Clock frequency 12-40 MHz
FSB same as clock frequency
FPU 80387
Fabrication process 1,500 - 1,000 nm
Number of transistors 275,000
Power consumption 2 W (33 MHz)
Voltage 5 V
Die surface area 42 mm²
Connector 132 pins

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  • Ryun
    Nice article, thanks for another trip-down-memory-lane.
  • randomizer
    I swear I had a Clawhammer with 512MB L2 cache.
  • cpuTweaker
    Lackluster article...a lot of backround on the chips were left out, fact that make thier acomplishments truely impressive. To THG's credit, their was at least some mention of the impact Alpha had on some of the chip designs, but no where near being complete.

    Where the intel article seemed to overshadow intel's little victories, this article seems to gloss over AMD innovation (though i'll admit that i didn't recall the bit about the Intel chip, either the pentium or pentium pro, that gave incorrect values for mathmatical equations)

    Both articles really need alot more detail added. As i've actually ranted about the history i'm reffering to in the comments section of the intel article as well as many other's i won't re-hash it.
  • neiroatopelcc
    Despite not being terribly detailed, I still like these recaps. Good articles really, all of them. Now all we need is one on alpha, and on how the mac stuff went before it was called intel
  • neiroatopelcc
    Oh and on ati I suppose, seeing we've already had nvidia :9 ... or even matrox, 3dfx and others that have vanished in a combo article...

    This is like viasat history - only more specific and technical
  • AMD 386 SX @25 MHz was powering my first personal computer. The whole computer costed ~4000$ and it wasn't even top performance.
    AMD 486 @120 Mhz was making my friends that bought an early Pentium red with envy.
  • jj463rd
    I had several systems with the AMD 486 X5 processor at 133 Mhz.I also have 2 K6-2 systems,1 Athlon a Athlon 64 and a Phenom X4 9850 BE system.Actually most of my systems are Intel basedthough.When I first heard that AMD was in pretty big trouble I still wouldn't get a B2 Phenom but when they fixed the bug I decided to help them out by building the Phenom X4 9850BE system which runs very well.Plus I've just ordered some new ATI graphics cards too.
    Someone gave me a AMD K5 system.
    Thanks for the article.
  • Malovane
    Heh, owned one AMD processor of every line, starting with the 8086 and ending with the Phenom. Wasn't even intentional for the first decade, but I'm glad I did. Liked the article, though it could have gone into a bit more detail and back story.
  • Minerva
    I enjoy these articles as well, as I collect old hardware...
    I have quite a few chips from both makers, including the AMD 40MHz 386, and an Intel 386 & 387 33MHz cpu's, which are quite scarce...
  • NightLight
    I too collect old hardware Minerva, in fact, I still have a lot of them still in running order on a mainboard ! Good Review, I just loved to see that windows 3 series again :)Altough a little bit biased...
  • caamsa
    Let’s hope that AMD’s financial problems are only temporary, and that they’ll be around for many more years to compete with Intel in the x86 processor arena.

  • gto127
    I liked the article and the fact that Alpha was mentioned in the chipset design. I think a article revisiting DEC would be an interesting read. I remember their processors having about double performance of others at the time and Intel being sued by them for stealing the design for the pentium pro.
  • zenmaster
    For the Poster wishing more detail, go research it.
    It's not all that hard.

    The article was designed to be a brief history overview.
    Excessive details would have clouded that goal.
    What it does do, however, is give you the information you need to start your researchy project.

    Have Fun!
  • doomsdaydave11
    Oh how I loved my K6 200Mhz, and K6-2 350MHz, packed with 96MB of PC-100 RAM, a 2MB Matrox (can't remember the model) and a 3GB Hard Drive, I was flyin!!!
  • bounty
    And so it was that AMD became one of the first companies to sell an 8086 close.

    I'm guessing that's supposed to say clone?
  • sarwar_r87
    i remember ma k6-2 500MHz (64mb and then 256MB) and i used to run winxp (after it came out). and some games.....and it was not painfully slow.......but i felt if was more responsive than my friends p4. all i made sure was that i had minimal background stuff running on my OS and install stuff that i need.maybe am being biased as it was ma 1st PC (i was in class 5 then) but it served me well for 7yrs straight
  • nezuko
    Well,well,well, from imitation to innovation, i like that phrase!. And now, You should gave this phrase to the Intel history review: from innovation to imitation, since Intel DID finally use QPI and IMC in its architecture which is innovation from AMD. And ridiculously, Intel said: " You only can do that once to improve performance, what would you do next?" Well, let's see what will AMD do to improve performance and compete with Intel.
    first thought when saw Nehalem review, " Whoa, AMD will be crush this time." But then, suddenly, AMD ACC appears. "What the hell!" From only 300MHz overclock become 1 GHz overclock. That's huge for me since AMD Athlon never got those awesome overclock compare to E2160.
  • Mathos
    God I think when I had my k7 T-bird I started with like 128mb ram, ended up having 768mb later on. Only major issue I had with it was the ram amount trying to run a dual boot with 98se and WinXP. Anything over 640mb and 98se would crap out. Think when I put that one together thats when I started out with a guillemot 3dfx Banshee card, dabbled with voodoo 5 5500 for a while, then got the geforce 2 Ti450 that I had for a long time. Been using AMD ever since then though. I've always seemed to have less problems with my personal builds with AMD than those of friends that were using the P4 and whatnot. In fact I would of put my AthlonXP 2100+ up against my friends P4 2ghz any day of the week.
  • wh3resmycar
    my very first was a k6-2, with 32mb RAM. ive never been able to play Half-life with it but it opened me up to the world of silicon and transistors :D
  • wh3resmycar
    btw, where are the durons? i remember the day when leo laporte broke in the news that the athlons are already hitting 1ghz mark. the good old days, he even mentioned pairing it up with a geforce 2 gts. i drooled.

    and omg!! the processor rubber feet! once they burn away say good bye to your cpu, why did they put it in there in the first place?
  • fazers_on_stun
    Wasn't it John C. Dvorak, of PC Magazine, who said upon the release of the 386SX that "no-one would ever need all this processing power" and that the chip was best used in servers - the 286 was overkill for ordinary users :).
  • jimmysmitty
    I remember when me and my mentor took a AMD K6-2 laptop processor and OCed it from 300MHz to 400MHz essentially making it run like a desktop K6-2 CPU. Had to flip some switches. It was fast but it needed to always be plugged in cuz it sucked the battery dry very fast.
  • jj463rd
    wh3resmycarmy very first was a k6-2, with 32mb RAM. ive never been able to play Half-life with it but it opened me up to the world of silicon and transistors

    My AMD K6-2 system worked well with Half-Life.The reason why is that I had a good video card a 3DFX Voodoo 3 card at that point in time.What I liked about the AMD K6-2 is that it was about 1/4 the cost of an Intel Pentium 2.It wasn't quite as powerful but at that point in time it was the best bang for the buck.
  • I think the first few chips have the year wrong by 10 years. I remember the
    386 cpu's in the 80's not the 90's. I might be wrong, but I don't think so.

    I started over clocking then.