Athlon 800 features
What's changed on the 800?
Like the Athlon 750, the Athlon 800 is based on AMD's new 0.18-micron manufacturing process. By transitioning to 0.18-micron, AMD is able to manufacture more Athlons per wafer, thus reducing manufacturing costs on each processor. In addition, 0.25-micron Athlons are notorious for requiring beefy power supplies. By reducing the manufacturing process to 0.18-micron, Athlon 800's consumes less power, thus generating less heat. As a result, with the 0.18-micron Athlon 750 and 800 AMD essentially "kills two birds with one stone."
Also like the Athlon 750, the Athlon 800 features the same 2/5th (0.4) L2 cache divider. Previous Athlon CPU's ran their L2 cache at 1/2 the speed of the processor core. For the Athlon 750 and 800, that would require L2 cache chips of 375MHz and 400MHz respectively. AMD must feel the cost associated with these parts is too great to make the CPU affordable. The end result is L2 cache running at 300MHz for the Athlon 750 and 320MHz for the Athlon 800.
While this is still very fast for everyday applications, for 3D games Intel "Coppermine" Pentium III's are beginning to overtake the Athlon 750 and 800. Part of this is due to the full-speed L2 cache integrated on their processor core. As Intel continues to ramp up their introductions of newer, faster Pentium III's, this performance gap between the Athlons L2 cache and that of the Pentium III will continue to increase.
AMD strikes back
Fortunately for AMD the problem won't last much longer, the AMD roadmap details plans for upcoming Athlons that will feature integrated L2 cache running at the same speed as the processor core as well as support for the 133MHz front side bus speed. These are both performance features already present on Coppermine, and for AMD these features can't come soon enough.
With these changes AMD also plans to shift the Athlon to the upcoming Socket A interface. Why the move to Socket A you ask? Since upcoming Athlons will feature embedded L2 cache, AMD no longer needs to employ the costly cartridge currently used to hold the processor core and its L2 cache chips. As a result, Socket A Athlons will be cheaper to manufacture than their Slot A siblings.
All variants of the Athlon with integrated L2 cache will feature copper interconnects. By shifting to copper interconnect technology, AMD should be able to manufacture these CPU's at higher clock speeds than if traditional aluminum interconnects were used. With copper interconnects, AMD plans to reach the 1GHz mark by summer of this year.
In short, while the Athlon 800 is offered at the highest clock speed AMD has released to date, underlying issues prevent it from becoming the stellar CPU that it could be.