Imitation To Innovation: AMD's Best CPUs

AMD Improves the Athlon: Thunderbird, XP, and more.

AMD knew it had a winner with the K7 architecture and improved it little by little, increasing the frequency and using finer fab processes. The Thunderbird core employed a 180 nm process and had 256 KB of on-chip cache. The Palomino design introduced support for SSE. The Athlon XP changed the package and reinstated PR numbers. The Thoroughbred was an Athlon XP using a 130 nm fab process (with a 256 KB cache). Barton had a 512 KB cache and also used a 130 nm process. Athlon XP and subsequent models used the PR number instead of a clock frequency designation.

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Code nameThunderbirdPalomino/XPThoroughbredBarton
Date released2000200120022003
Data bus64-bits64-bits64-bits64-bits
Address bus32-bits32-bits32-bits32-bits
Maximum memory4,096 MB4,096 MB4,096 MB4,096 MB
L1 cache64 KB + 64 KB64 KB + 64 KB64 KB + 64 KB64 KB + 64 KB
L2 cache256 KB (CPU frequency)256 KB (CPU frequency)256 KB (CPU frequency)512 KB (CPU frequency)
Clock frequency650-1,400 MHz1,000-1,733 MHz1,200-2,250 MHz1,400-2,200 MHz
FSB100/133 MHz (DDR)133 MHz (DDR)133/166 MHz (DDR)166/200 MHz (DDR)
SIMDMMX, Enhanced 3DNow!MMX, Enhanced 3DNow!, SSEMMX, Enhanced 3DNow!, SSEMMX, Enhanced 3DNow!, SSE
Fabrication process180 nm180 nm130 nm130 nm
Number of transistors37 million37.5 million37.2 million54.3 million
Power consumption38-72 W46-72 W49-68 W60-76 W
Voltage1.7-1.75 V1.75 V1.5-1.65 V1.65 V
Die surface area120 mm²129.26 mm²84.66 mm²100.99 mm²
ConnectorSocket ASocket ASocket ASocket A

We should mention that AMD also produced versions for servers (Athlon MP) and for laptops (Athlon 4, Athlon XP Mobile), as well as the Geode NX (130 nm and a 256 KB cache). AMD marketed the Thorton (130 nm, 512 KB of cache, 256 KB of which was disabled) and planned on Trinidad, an Athlon using a 90 nm process. There were more PR oddities: the Athlon XP 2600+ was clocked at 1,900, 1,917, 2,000, 2,083, or 2,133 MHz depending on the version, for instance.

  • 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...