Here we go again!
Ever since AMD released the Athlon last summer, Intel and AMD have been locked in a brutal clock speed war. If one company launches an 800MHz processor, the other feels compelled to release their top CPU at 850MHz. This war reached its peak in March of this year when AMD beat Intel to the 1GHz punch: both companies launched their gigahertz processors months in advance of earlier plans.
At first, 1.0GHz processors from both companies were hard for consumers to purchase at retail, but it didn't take long for AMD to ramp up their Athlon production. In contrast, Intel has only recently begun supplying their 1GHz Pentium III in quantity to retail channels.
Looking to steal some of the limelight from AMD, Intel launched their Pentium III processor at 1.13GHz, reclaiming the clock speed title. In hindsight, we all know how that launch turned out for them, the company was forced to recall the processor less than a month after its release. (In a mild piece of irony, the recall was on the 28th of August -- the same day AMD launched their 1.1GHz Athlon.)
So where does the war stand now? The fact that AMD is launching the Athlon at 1.2GHz today should answer that question. Quite simply, they're not letting up. As we've seen so clearly over the past 16 months in both the 3D graphics and CPU markets, if you ease up for even a moment, your primary competitor will catch up to you. Sensing this, AMD plans to continue launching new Athlon processors over the coming months. CEO Jerry Sanders has stated that the company plans to be at 1.5GHz during the first quarter of next year. With AMD's proven track record with the Athlon, we believe him.
What happened to Intel?
Don't count Intel out just yet. AMD may be on throne of the clock speed battle right now, but the boys in blue aren't going down without a fight. Before the end of this year, Intel plans to release their seventh generation processor, aptly named Pentium 4.
Clock speeds available at launch are expected to be 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz, effectively giving Intel the clock speed lead over AMD. Will the Pentium 4 run faster than AMD's fastest Athlon available at that time? Benchmarks leaked on the web suggest disappointment. But we've seen how pre-release engineering samples can be. In our K7-550 preview, we had a hard time witnessing the full performance of the Athlon microarchitecture.
In any case, let's take a peek at our 1.2GHz Athlonů