The New Athlon Processor: AMD Is Finally Overtaking Intel

Architectural Summary

If I have seen it correctly, Pentium III was beat 7:nil in the architecture comparison, which seems to be a pretty clear result to me. Athlon's architecture that's focussed on high clock speed opens a bright future for this new AMD processor. At 500 MHz this CPU is hardly making use of its abilities and it's not surprising that Kryotech has already been able to run some Athlon-samples at 1 GHz. The architecture is a clear winner and a perfect base for AMD to steer into the year 2000. Intel has for the first time all reasons to become paranoid to survive. This time it's not a close catch-up of an AMD that's completely out of breath, this time Intel won't be able to just wait a couple of months and then release a new product that will beat the fastest AMD processor. Athlon is simply the more modern and technical advanced product and Coppermine, which has already been delayed due to speed-path issues, won't change that. Coppermine's architecture is still based on the architecture of Pentium Pro. This architecture won't be good enough to catch up with Athlon. It will be very hard for Intel to get Coppermine to clock frequencies of 700 and above and the P6-architecture may not benefit too much from even higher core clocks anymore. Athlon however is already faster than a Pentium III at the same clock speed, which will hardly change with Coppermine, and Athlon is designed to go way higher than 600 MHz. This design screams for higher clock speeds! AMD is probably for the first time in the very situation that Intel used to enjoy for such a long time. AMD might already be able to supply Athlons at even higher clock rates right now (650 MHz is currently the fastest Athlon), but there is no reason to do so. So AMD will wait until Intel releases a faster Pentium III and then AMD releases an even faster Athlon. It could go on like this until Intel has finished Willamette, which doesn't look as if it was anytime soon. Until then the world will be upside down, Intel will be the No.2 and AMD will supply the high end CPUs. It's a once in a lifetime chance for AMD, let's hope they'll make the right use of it!

Let's not forget the problems that Athlon is facing though. First of all AMD has to be able and supply enough Athlons to satisfy the market. Then AMD will have to rely on Taiwanese motherboard and chipset makers to provide reliable Athlon-platforms. The Dresden-fab will soon have to start producing Athlon in .18µ-technology, to produce higher clock speeds and possibly an on-die L2-cache. Those are the major issues that I can see right now, let's hope that AMD can solve them without Atiq Raza.