AMD's Duron: Redefining "value"
With DDR chipsets and 1GHz+ processors stealing most of the spotlight, budget chips like AMD's Duron are sometimes forgotten. However, in our tests, we've found Duron offers up to 95% of the performance of Athlon (running at the same clock speed) at three fourths of the price. With such impressive performance coming out of such an inexpensive chip, we're reminded of the classic children's story "The Little Engine That Could": value processors aren't expected to run this fast!
Besides offering excellent performance, Duron processors are also well known for their overclocking ability. With the right motherboard and processor, you can have your shiny new Duron 700 or 800 running at 1GHz in just a few simple steps. In fact, the Duron line of processors reminds us of the good ol' Intel Celeron processors based on the Mendocino core that debuted nearly three years ago. Surely you remember Mendocino don't you? The most famous Mendocino processor of them all (which also happened to be owned by the practically every member of the FS staff) was the first, the trusty Celeron 300A. By adjusting the system bus from its default speed of 66MHz to 100MHz, you instantly had a 450MHz processor that offered similar levels of performance as Intel's latest processor at the time, the Pentium II 450MHz.
The times may have changed, but fortunately, the Celeron 300A lives on in AMD's Duron; we had no problems running our 900MHz Duron at bus speeds above 133MHz with ASUS' A7V133 KT133A motherboard. Before we discuss our overclocking results however, lets quickly go over the state of affairs in the processor market.
In our last Duron review, we mentioned how the lack of integrated chipsets for the Socket A platform was hurting Duron sales with system vendors such as Compaq and Gateway. Today, availability of motherboards based on VIA's KM133 chipset has lessened the situation. In addition, motherboards based on VIA's KT133E chipset will soon be available. Building on the same core as VIA's original KT133 chipset, KT133E adds one new enhancement - it's built on a more advanced 0.18-micron manufacturing process. With its smaller process design, KT133E is less expensive to manufacture; these cost savings will allow for a new generation of inexpensive KT133E-based motherboards.
Excluding the clock multiplier (now at 9.0x), the Duron 900 we're reviewing here today is unchanged from the Duron 850 we reviewed earlier this year. In fact, a close inspection of the processor core reveals our particular Duron 900 was manufactured over last year's Christmas/New Year's holiday (particularly, the 51st week of 2000):
Our Duron 900