AMD and Intel go back and forth in an incessant battle for performance supremacy. Yet, it seems that AMD’s journey to the top has been a bit more treacherous, despite the fact that its Athlon XP 3000+ remains highly competitive with Intel’s 3GHz Pentium 4. When the ‘Thoroughbred’ core was first released on a .13-micron process, the Athlon XP was cruising at 1.8GHz. Alas, avid overclocking enthusiasts were disappointed to find that the first-generation Thoroughbred core wouldn’t run much faster than its stock speed. Then the reworked Thoroughbred core arrived, which saw significantly increased operating frequencies, thanks to a ninth metal layer. AMD followed with a “limited edition” Athlon XP 2800+ that kept the processor running tit-for-tat with Intel’s own flagship, but the chip was impossible to buy at a retail outlet. It wasn’t until AMD debuted the Athlon XP 3000+, sporting the ‘Barton’ core, did we witness AMD catch up in terms of performance and
But today is a new day and AMD is taking a confident leap forward by introducing to us a processor that, according to its product rating, should be faster than anything Intel is selling. Some may call this release a preemptive move to reestablish AMD as the performance leader. Other will say that this is AMD’s answer to the 875P chipset
. Or maybe AMD has discovered that it can get away with yet another performance boost (Athlon XP 3400+?) before the Athlon 64 arrives in September. Regardless, AMD hasn’t given up on its seventh-generation architecture and the Athlon XP 3200+ is a product not only of AMD’s continual development, but also that of its chipset partners.
Last Stop, All Aboard!
When the Athlon processor launched in 1999, it did so accompanied by the EV6 bus, freshly licensed from Digital Equipment Corp and running at 100MHz DDR. At the time, it was said that the EV6 bus would be scalable up to 200MHz DDR, or the equivalent of 400MHz. Of course, the processor architecture has matured and evolved since then, as has memory technology. It was astounding that the bus could deliver up to 3.2GB per second of bandwidth, especially when 64-bit, PC133 memory was still transferring roughly a gigabyte per second. And so to keep up with Intel’s best efforts, AMD has pushed its front side bus from 100MHz to 133MHz, then to 166MHz and now to 200MHz. That’s right – those who speculated about an equivalent 400MHz front side bus for the past few months were correct. We’re at the last stop on the Athlon XP’s front side bus and the 3200+ is the first processor to bring that setting to fruition.