Last October was a busy month for officials at AMD -- five processor launches, a new chipset launch, and the beginning of active promotion of DDR memory. At the time, the company was hitting on all cylinders; the boys in green made product launches look easy. The company's flamboyant CEO, Jerry Sanders, painted a bright future for the company, back then the company planned to be at 1.5GHz around this time of the year!
What went wrong with AMD, you ask? A number of things. First and foremost was a lack of supply of DDR chipsets (chipsets are the devices that "speak" with the various components within your PC, such as your video card, RAM, and CPU). In the rush to get Athlons designed to work with their 760 chipset out before Pentium 4, supply was put on the backburner. Motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte was chosen as AMD's launch partner for 760, but an inadequate design led to problems when running at 266MHz (the actual clock speed of the bus is 133MHz, but the Athlon bus transfers on both edges of the clock cycle effectively yielding 266MHz) with PC2100 memory, costing Gigabyte more time in getting the fix implemented. As a result, the DDR systems that did ship at the end of 2000 were 200MHz systems utilizing PC1600 memory, these systems offered much slower performance than the PC2100 system we originally tested back in October.
With AMD working with motherboard manufacturers on improving their 760 products, third-party chipset manufacturers were busy announcing plans of their own. For instance, VIA, AMD's largest supplier of chipsets for the Athlon processor, chose to focus on their DDR Pentium III chipset rather than Athlon for economic reasons, and their SDRAM-based KT133A chipset wasn't entering volume shipments until the end of 2000: too late for the important holiday spending season. Acer Laboratories (ALi) had originally announced their ALiMAGiK1 DDR chipset last summer, but product delays continually pushed it back. When it was finally released at the end of last year, supplies were limited and performance was uninspiring in comparison to the 760 chipset.
System running with DDR memory
Is that a GeForce2 Ultra?
Supply and demand
Due to the lack of 266MHz-capable motherboards in retail and OEM channels, AMD essentially sat on supplies of their 266MHz Athlon CPUs. After all, what's the point of supplying the chip if there aren't any motherboards that work with it? In addition, AMD's Athlon 1.2GHz performed very competitively with Intel's flagship Pentium 4 in most benchmarks. With the exception of id Software's Quake III: Arena, Athlon generally ran faster than Pentium 4 when we last tested it in November
Now that 266MHz motherboards are widely available, AMD feels its time for another processor launch, this time we're dealing with clock speeds of 1.3GHz and 1.33GHz. Lets find out what's new about both of these processors!