Summary: Earlier this week AMD debuted its Athlon XP 2100+ processor. Running at 1.73GHz, the Athlon XP 2100 could be the last of AMD's 0.18-micron Palomino processors. Find out how well this chip performs in our Athlon XP 2100+ review!
Athlon XP: A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Just a little over two months ago AMD rung in 2002 by launching the Athlon XP 2000+. Running at 1.67GHz and utilizing AMD’s Palomino core, the XP 2000+ was AMD’s counterpunch to the “Northwood” variant of the Intel Pentium 4. Built on a 0.13-micron manufacturing process and containing 512KB of level two cache we expected the Athlon XP 2000+ to fall behind the Northwood Pentium 4 in terms of performance, but instead the XP 2000+ frequently outperformed Northwood. Despite its 300MHz+ clock speed disadvantage the Athlon XP 2000+ demonstrated excellent performance in our tests with Serious Sam and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but Quake 3 continued to favor the Pentium 4. In short, the Athlon XP 2000+ proved that paper spec comparisons can be very misleading when it comes to real world performance. To spice up the competition between its rival a bit more, yesterday AMD released its Athlon XP 2100+.
SIDEBAR: The official press release
Here are the prices AMD is officially charging its distributors in quantities of 1,000:
As you can see, Athlon XP prices remain unchanged from the price cuts earlier this year. Instead, AMD has merely added the XP 2100+ to the top of their lineup and added a 19% price premium. Considering the 4% boost in clock speed, the XP 2100+ isn’t likely to win over many consumers looking for the best value, the 1900+ and 1800+ look considerably more attractive. Of course, if you frequent Price Watch you already know that AMD’s official processor pricing is considerably higher than street prices, with the Athlon XP 1800+ currently available as low as $124 and the Athlon XP 1900+ at $161. Meanwhile, the XP 2100+ can currently be found as low as $297. As supplies increase prices will drop, we also wouldn’t be surprised to see a price cut in the near future.
As the Athlon XP 2100+ is practically unchanged from the 2000+, motherboard compatibility problems should be kept to a minimum. The biggest issue would likely be the proper identification of the processor, rather than reporting the XP 2100 as an “XP 2100+”, the BIOS would instead report it as an “Athlon XP 1733MHz” when booting up the system. A simple BIOS upgrade will fix this issue.
Our overclocking experience with the Athlon XP 2100+ was uneventful at best. While we were able to boot into Windows XP and run many applications at clock speeds as high as 1820MHz, stability wasn’t 100%. To achieve complete stability, we had to settle for 1781MHz (13.0x137), hardly anything to write home about when it comes to overclocking.
AMD Athlon XP 1800+
AMD Athlon XP 2000+
AMD Athlon XP 2100+
Intel Pentium 4 2.0AGHz
Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz
256MB Mushkin PC2100 2-2-2 DDR SDRAM
256MB PC800 RDRAM
NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 500 reference board
Driver version Detonator 23.11
30GB IBM Deskstar DTLA 307030 ATA/100 Hard Drive
AFREEY 12X DVD-ROM
Windows XP Professional
Desktop Resolution: 1024x768x32
3DMark2000 ver 1.1 – 16-bit, 16-bit textures
3Dmark2000 – Directx 7
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
The added clock speed is just enough to propel the Athlon XP 2100+ over the Pentium 4 2.2GHz, although the performance improvement from XP 2000+ to 2100+ is just shy of two percentage points at 640x480x16. In 3DMark 2000 the gap between the XP 2000+ and 2100+ is slightly larger, with both chips coming out on top over the Pentium 4 2.2GHz.
3DMark 2001 - Car Chase
3DMark 2001 - Dragothic
3DMark 2001 - Lobby
3DMark 2001 - Nature
Serious Sam - OpenGL
Serious Sam has always run best on the AMD Athlon processor, so it’s no surprise to see the Athlon XPs reign supreme in this test. A more competitive comparison would be the Athlon XP 2100+ versus the XP 2000+; at 640x480 the margin is only a little over one percentage point.
Quake III - High Quality
The Athlon XP 2100+ narrows the gap between Athlon and Pentium 4, but still falls behind the Pentium 4 2.0A by four percent and the Pentium 4 2.2GHz by ten percentage points at 640x480. Of course, if you’ve got an Athlon XP 2100+ and a GeForce3 Ti 500, you’re going to be playing Quake 3 at 1600x1200, and at that point you’re limited by the GeForce3 card.
Return To Castle Wolfenstein MP Test
Like Serious Sam, Return to Castle Wolfenstein runs best on the Athlon XP platform, although the margin isn’t as large in this game. In particular, it’s really surprising to see the 1.5GHz XP 1800+ keeping up with the Pentium 4 2.2GHz.
SIDEBAR: BAPco recently debuted SYSmark 2002, we’ll be taking a look at it soon to see if it cuts the mustard for testing.
Performance: Although it’s only 67MHz faster than the Athlon XP 2000+, the XP 2100+ is still the fastest Athlon processor on the block and that has to count for something. The Athlon XP 2100+ is able to pull away from the Pentium 4 in Serious Sam and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, although the higher clock speed isn’t enough for the chip to overtake Pentium 4 in Quake 3.
Price (in comparison to other Athlons): At an officially listed price of $420 in quantities of 1,000, the premium AMD charges over its older Athlon XP processors is a bit higher than what we’re used to seeing in the past. End users will get more bang for their buck from an Athlon XP 1800+ or 1900+.
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