Performance Matters: AMD Introduces AthlonXP Processor

New Pricing

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ModelOfficial 1KU OEM PriceStreet Price
AthlonXP 1800+(1533 MHz)$252$225
AthlonXP 1700+(1466 MHz)$190N/A
AthlonXP 1600+(1400 MHz)$160$150
AthlonXP 1500+(1333 MHz)$130$125
Athlon 1400 MHz$130$105
Athlon 1333 MHz$125$95
Athlon 1200 MHz$120$85

On the street AthlonXP is currently more expensive than the old Athlon, even though Athlon 1400 is most likely superior to AthlonXP 1500+, because e.g. for the FPU clock frequency is more important than Palomino's new features.

Let's have a look at Pentium 4's pricing:

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ModelStreet Price
Pentium 4 2000 MHz$550
Pentium 4 1900 MHz$370
Pentium 4 1800 MHz$240
Pentium 4 1700 MHz$180 / $200
Pentium 4 1600 MHz$160
Pentium 4 1500 MHz$130

If the compare Pentium 4 to AthlonXP and take the according P4 MHz vs. AthlonXP model number, you get very similar prices. However, AthlonXP performs better, while it is clocked lower than its model numbers suggest.

AMD's New Model Policy

The benchmarks show quite clearly that AthlonXP 1800+ is able to beat Intel's flagship Pentium 4 2 GHz in the majority of benchmarks. From that point of view, the AthlonXP at 1533 MHz would have rather deserved the model number 1900+ or even 2000+. However, AMD was basing its model rating on the expected performance of the next Pentium 4 core 'Northwood', which will be performing better per clock than current Pentium 4 CPUs.

AMD's problem is the fact that Athlon processors are able to do a lot more work per clock cycle than Intel's Pentium 4. We just saw that AthlonXP at 1533 MHz is able to reach or even beat Pentium 4 running at an almost 33% higher clock speed. Normal buyers won't care about the 'work per clock' issue. They just ask for 'megahertz' and that's AMD's trouble. Hence, AMD didn't have any other choice than introducing a measure that would reflect the actual performance of its processors. The new model numbers are a first step in this direction.

AMD's new model rating is based on 14 benchmarks that represent 34 applications of the three fields 'visual computing ', 'gaming ' and 'office productivity '. AMD was trying to be as fair as possible, with the effect that the current model numbering of AthlonXP processors is a bit overly humble, as you can see from our benchmarks. Once Intel releases Pentium 4 processors based on Northwood however, the model numbers may become more realistic.

The model numbering is only an intermediate solution. AMD is trying to help establish an independent institution that creates a new performance measure that is fairer and more realistic than the current MHz-rating in 2002. This institution is supposed to benefit every PC customer, regardless if he buys Intel or AMD processors, by providing a reliable way of determing performance.

We will see how successful AMD will be in helping to establish this institution. Intel won't have any interest in giving aid, because it benefits from the clock frequency (hype) lead of Pentium 4. Microsoft will have to join in, since a majority of software comes from the software giant. OEMs might or might not be interested. Especially the old buddies of Intel won't be willing to help or recognize AMD's initiative. The media could help a lot, but certainly not the crazy fanatics found in so many Internet publications. It will be a long way and this institution will need a strong spokesperson that is able to take a lot of abuse from the AMD as well as Intel fanatics across the globe. The noble idea behind this institution might not be good enough to make it real. Let's see what happens.

There will be a lot of criticism of AMD now. Yes, it is true that the model numbering might confuse customers right now, since it is indeed difficult to know if Athlon 1400 is now slower or faster than AthlonXP 1500+. However, these are transitional times. AMD's new model number system deserves better than being compared with the old and confusing P-Rating. AMD hasn't got an alternative right now and so I respect the new system and accept it, even though I might not like it too much. I suggest that we all give it a chance.