Lately, the PC-market hasn't really been too exciting. OK, there is NVIDIA's recently announced GeForce3 graphics chip , which impressed all 3D-savvy PC-users with its incredibly rich new feature set. It is still not available however, and so the market remains quiet.
AMD has indeed managed to apply a major change to the microprocessor scene. It's about a year ago that AMD was the first CPU maker to introduce a processor running at 1 GHz and since this time the Athlon remained ahead of all Intel processors in the desktop market in terms of overall performance as well as price/performance. The release of Intel's Pentium 4 processor at the end of last year was able to change the situation a little bit, but it still couldn't push Athlon from its well-deserved position as being the PC-processor with the highest acclaim and excellent reputation.
Intel is trying hard to get back to the top, where it used to be for decades. The Pentium 4 is certainly no bad product whatsoever, but so far the majority of PC-users remains skeptical. Lately Intel dropped the prices of Pentium 4 to improve its attractiveness. However, most people, including myself, consider those price drops as not substantial enough to bet on Intel's 'net-bursting' flagship processor. While Intel paints Pentium 4 in the brightest colors, the reality shines in a different light. Pentium 4 is only performing really well with specifically optimized software. Today's software does not have those tweaks and the question remains, why anyone should buy a car today, when its tires will only be available in months or even years from now.
So while Intel is trying to attract us with substantially priced future tunes plus a handful of the oh-so-beloved RDRAM , AMD continues almost stoical with its Athlon strategy. So far this strategy has paid off well, making AMD's Athlon the most 'true-value' PC-processor to date.
Today's release of Athlon 1300, running with a 1.3 GHz core and 100/200 MHz bus clock, as well as Athlon 1333, coming with 1.333 GHz core and 133/266 MHz bus clock, is only the logical consequence of refined engineering without any 'net burst' or 'rapid execution' galore. Depending on your stance towards AMD and Intel, you could call Athlon just 'simply straight forward', 'unglamorous' or 'less advanced', compared to Pentium 4. One fact remains, Athlon doesn't try to be something that it's not. It's a 'working-class' processor, rough, honest, reliable and hard working, but also always hungry.
Athlon 1300 And Athlon 1333
AMD's president Hector Ruiz recently said that AMD doesn't feel particularly pushed to release the next speed grade Athlon processor, because the current flagship at 1.2 GHz was well able to compete against Intel's Pentium 4 at 1.5 GHz. Some very smart people concluded that in reality AMD's upcoming Athlon 1300/1333 was not ready for launch. I can only say that I happen to know extremely well when AMD started shipping Athlon 1333 samples to 1st tier reviewers. Be assured that Athlon 1333 is reality for well over a month. Right now there doesn't seem the slightest problem to produce even faster Athlon or Duron processors. I suggest that those doubters stop warming up old stories and start doing their homework instead. If I try hard to remember stories of processors unfit for release it's not AMD that comes to my mind.
From an engineering standpoint, Athlon 1.3 GHz is 'simply' a refined version of the previous Athlon processors with 'Thunderbird ' core. No major features have been added and the manufacturing process has not been changed either. The newly released Athlon is still a 'Thunderbird'.
Chipsets - Athlon's Achilles Heel
While AMD's processors have rightfully managed to reach highest acclaim, there still remains a touchy weakness concerning their platforms. AMD has still a long way to go to reach Intel's strength in the chipset arena. If we benevolently forget Intel's Camino and MTH debacle, we remember that for a long time Intel has been providing the best platforms for their processors. Latest since 1995 and the 430FX-chipset, the best performing platform for Intel processors used to be an Intel chipset.
Unfortunately, the story with AMD is a bit different. Although AMD released the AMD750 chipset for its first SlotA Athlon in 1999 and recently the AMD760 chipset for Athlon-C and DDR-SDRAM, the majority of platforms for AMD-processors come from Taiwanese third party chipset makers. AMD750 and its mere 2xAGP-support was not advanced enough and thus soon replaced by VIA's Apollo KX133 and later KT133 chipset . It might well be that AMD760, the currently most advanced Athlon-chipset, might also soon give way to products from ALi and VIA. The latter two might not perform as well as AMD760, but they are less expensive and thus more attractive to the OEMs of this world. In this case, AMD760 might continue to live in the SMP-arena only, once AMD760MP has been released.
I personally don't welcome this possible and rather likely scenario. AMD should follow Intel's example and provide the best chipsets for its processors to ensure continued success. However, I guess that AMD has simply not got the resources to realize that for the time being. This leaves AMD in a rather precarious situation. AMD760 doesn't seem to reach the expected price points; ALi's MaGiK1 is a rather mediocre performer and VIA follows its old history of requiring ages to develop a functioning product.
People who don't need to squeeze the last bit of performance out of their Athlon processors can of course still live without DDR-memory support and plug their Athlon-C in a motherboard with VIA's Apollo KT133A chipset and PC133 SDRAM. Performance freaks however should take my advice and look for AMD760-platforms.
The most important thing about AMD's new processors is of course their performance. We obviously expect improved benchmark scores over Athlon 1200, but of course less than we showed in the Power Box article with the vapo-chilled Athlon 1600.
I decided to test Athlon-C 1333 on my reference AMD760/DDR platform MS-6341 or 'K7 Master' from MSI. It competes against its predecessor Athlon-C 1200 on the same platform and Intel's flagship CPU Pentium 4 1.5 GHz on an Asus P4T i850-motherboard.
Athlon 1333 turned out to run surprisingly cool. Keeping the core voltage at the official 1.75 V and without the requirement of an above-average cooler, it happened to be very overclockable. 1466 MHz at 1.75 V were no problem whatsoever, which is why I included those results into the benchmark runs as well.
I decided to run the new Athlon at 1333 and overclocked 1466 MHz through the same huge benchmark suite that I used for the Power Box article . I also included the results of our Power Box with the vapo-chilled Athlon 1600. Besides the Pentium 4 1.5 GHz you won't find results of an overclocked Pentium 4, because I simply dislike the fact that Pentium 4 overclocking requires the alteration of memory, processor bus, PCI as well as AGP clock. Athlon can be overclocked without those risky maneuvers that always jeopardize reliable system operation. I don't mind some die-hard overclockers playing around with Pentium 4 overclocking, but anyone who does serious work on his system should better refrain from it. I would never write my articles on an overclocked P4-platform, because I hate re-writing parts of my story numerous times.
|System||1333 System||Power Box||Pentium 4 System||Athlon DDR System|
|Processor||Athlon 'C' 1.333 GHz||Athlon 'C' 1.6 GHz vapochilled||Pentium 4 1.5 GHz||Athlon 'C' 1.2 GHz|
|Motherboard||MSI MS-6341||MSI MS-6341||Asus P4T||Asus A7M266|
|Memory||256 MB Micron/Crucial PC2100 DDR-SDRAM||256 MB Micron/Crucial PC2100 DDR-SDRAM||256 MB Samsung PC800 RDRAM||256 MB Micron/Crucial PC2100 DDR-SDRAM|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce 2 Ultra Reference Card64 MB, Driver 6.67 (Win98/Win2k)|
|Hard Drive||IBM DTLA-307075, 75 GB, 7200 RPMATA100, FAT32 Win98, NTFS Win2k|
|Desktop Resolution for BAPCo's Sysmark 2000 and Webmark2001||1024x768x16x85|
|Quake 3 Arena||Retail Versionno sound|
|Unreal Tournament||Version 4.28 (patched)no sound|
|MDK2||Downloadable Demo VersionT&L = On, trilinear filtering, high texture detail|
|Evolva||Rolling Demo v1.2 Build 944Standard command line = -benchmarkBump Mapped command line = -benchmark -dotbump|
|Mercedes Benz Truck Racing||Recommended GeForce2 Settings|
|Expendable||Downloadable Demo Versioncommand line = -timedemo|
|3d Mark 2000||Build 335, Default Benchmark|
|SiSoft Sandra Standard||Version 2000.3.6.4|
|Desktop Resolution for SPECviewperf 6.1.2||1280x1024x32x85|
|FlasK Settings||Video Codec: DivX 3.11 alpha, Fast-Motion, keyframe every 10 seconds, compression 100, data rate 910 kbpsAudio Codec: audio not processedVideo Resolution: 720x480, 29.97 fps, interlacedResizing: Nearest Neighbor|