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1.3GHz Athlons roll as AMD prepares server push

Posted: 16 May 2001 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ddr? sdram? athlon? pentium 4?

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has introduced a pair of speedy Athlon chips running at the 1.3GHz level, and the company is hoping to make a push into the server market later this year with a new chip and a multi-processor chipset. While archrival Intel Corp. is promoting both the Pentium III and the Pentium 4 processors, observers see a natural gap between those two devices, and that is exactly where AMD hopes to position its new Athlon offerings.

The latest devices are a 1.33GHz Athlon, using a 266MHz front-side bus designed to run with double-data-rate (DDR) SDRAM and a 1.3GHz Athlon using a 200MHz bus. Mark du Frere, Athlon brand manager for the company, said both are shipping now and that more than 20 PC OEMs will be launching systems using the products shortly. They include Compaq Computer Corp., Gateway Inc. and NEC, said du Frere.

In 1,000-unit shipments, the 1.3GHz Athlon is listed at $318, and the 1.33GHz version is priced at $350. In some benchmark testing, du Frere claimed that the fastest Athlons, using DDR memory, outperformed a 1.4GHz Pentium 4 system using Rambus DRAM chips.

On the server front, AMD is also developing an Athlon core, code-named Palomino that should sample later in the second quarter and go into volume production in the third quarter. The Palomino is expected to be used in conjunction with the 760MP chipset from AMD that will link up to two of the processors together in a system.

Dedicated links

Unlike Intel-based systems, the 760MP chipset will use a point-to-point connection, so each processor has a dedicated link to the north-bridge. Intel's architecture uses a single, shared bus for all the processors and the memory. While the AMD approach can be a bit more costly, as each processor requires 64 dedicated pins on the north-bridge, it can also offer somewhat better performance, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst for market research firm Insight64. AMD executives have said the point-to-point connections will guarantee up to 2.1GBps of bandwidth between the processor and the chipset.

"In the Pentium architectures, the more microprocessors there are within the system, the more it starts to limit the bandwidth and that can start to be a bottleneck," said Brookwood. Once the Palomino and the 760MP chipset debut, Brookwood said that competition between Intel and AMD in the server market is likely to really heat up.

While the AMD devices should outperform Intel's Pentium III offerings, Intel will also be delivering Pentium 4-based server systems that will give the Athlons stronger competition. Looking further out, AMD is working on two new desktop chips that should move into production in the third quarter. The Morgan is expected to debut at around 900MHz, and is aimed at value desktop systems, while the same Palomino core will move into a 1.5GHz desktop chip.

As AMD begins to migrate toward the 0.13?m-process node in the second half of the year, it will introduce the Thoroughbred chip, with both high-end mobile and desktop versions slated to sample in the fourth quarter.

? Will Wade

EE Times

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