Battle at 600MHz!
Meet the contenders
Let's get ready to rumbllllllle! Forget Mike Tyson, forget the Ultimate Fighting Championships, forget even Sega Dreamcast's killer boxing app, Ready 2 Rumble
. The biggest battle this fall is taking place right here in the Silicon Valley, between heavyweight incumbent Intel, and the hardened war vet Advanced Micro Devices.
In the right corner, in the white and blue trunks, is the newest incarnation of the defending champion, the Pentium III 600. In the opposite corner, sporting the green and white, is up and comer Athlon, also weighing in at 600MHz. These two fighters are vying for the title "fastest consumer processor" and the punches are going to fly fast and hard.
The truth is out there
One important point to remember is that 600MHz doesn't mean any testing is "apples to apples." Quite literally, look at Apple's top of the line G3 450Mhz. While a test against a similarly equipped P2-450 might be an apt comparison for some, who would be satisfied by any results? We've got the P3-600 now, and you can probably get it loaded for the same price as Apple's 450MHz blue and white tower.
In short, it may be nice to say "product x has the fastest architecture," but if it can't deliver in yield or scalability, raw MHz are going to take the cake, both in psychology and performance. This is exactly what Intel did against Apple and PowerPC, and it's why you don't hear anything anymore about the speed of RISC or PowerPC's newest chips, at least on the PC side.
How that translates here is simple. No matter how fast Processor A smokes Processor B, the title of fastest PC processor will eventually fall to who can keep pushing up speeds. AMD is no stranger to yield problems, but is banking on the hopes that their shiny new Dresden plant can push out 0.18 micron and copper interconnect technology fast enough to push Athlon to 1GHz.
Intel has been retooling for the 0.18 micron change as well, and is in good condition to compete, especially noting the amazing yields of 0.25 micron processors they've had. However, they're not without their own problems either. 0.18 Coppermine has been delayed for several months, which is why we're seeing 0.25 micron 600MHz processors already out on the open market. Whoever can ramp up the fastest will be able to take home the crown.