In the desktop microprocessor market, you can’t argue that competition isn’t a good thing for us, the consumers. If the market itself were saturated with CPU manufacturers then competition may not be such a desirable affair, but in the case of the desktop x86 market, where AMD and Intel are the only two companies battling it out, competition isn’t so bad.
The cost of owning a high performing CPU is not as great as it once was, and the acceleration of the product release roadmaps from both companies is driving the prices of the CPUs we all want to even lower levels in order to make way for faster, more robust solutions from both companies.
When we published our review of the Athlon 700 processor at the beginning of last month, we were told that AMD would have no other processor launches for the rest of the year and the 700MHz chip would be the flagship throughout the remaining portion of 1999. Little did AMD know that Intel was planning the release of a 733MHz Pentium III based on their Coppermine technology that would once again tilt the clock speed battle in favor of Intel.
To most AnandTech readers, clock speed isn’t the final determinate of true performance of a system. An example would be the ability of a 500MHz Athlon CPU to outperform a 600MHz Pentium III CPU in 3D Studio MAX. However, to OEMs as well as the population of computer buyers that aren’t so informed on architectural differences between processors, clock speed is king.
After Intel released their 733MHz Pentium III, OEMs that supported AMD and featured systems based on Athlon processors desired an Athlon solution that boasted a greater clock speed than Intel’s 733MHz for the majority of users that judge performance solely based on clock speed. With the internal yields high enough on the 750MHz Athlon parts to move to full production, AMD fulfilled the wishes of their supportive OEMs and pushed for the release of a 750MHz Athlon processor in 1999.
Unfortunately, there are two problems associated with increasing the clock speed of the Athlon processor. The first problem is making sure that the core can operate reliably at that speed and that AMD can produce the chips at a high enough yield to remain profitable, and the second is making sure that the L2 cache can run at the higher frequency. As we’re about to find out, for the first time in quite a while, the first problem isn’t one that AMD lost much sleep over.