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Nick Cross
July 2001
Page 1 2

AMD, set to take over the world?

The Pentium3 1.13GHz?

If you didn't know this chip was on the market a few months ago, I'm not surprised. It was recalled back to the Intel labs days after it was officially released. Why? Because it was unstable. Intel's reputation for stability experienced a fluctuation around the time of the P3 1.13GHz. Trying to keep up with the Athlon, Intel quickly released the chip, obviously without the usual rigorous testing. This led to an unstable CPU floating unit unable to operate at its stated speed. The P3 core had reached its limits. AMD, however, was happy enough, going higher and higher, piling on the pressure.

The Pentium 4 was launched soon after the fateful P3 1.13GHz incidient at 1.4GHz. The range quickly expanded to 1.3GHz and 1.5GHz, padding out the market. Today, we have a 1.7GHz P4. However, with the P4's release, the AMD Athlon continued to advance it's T-Bird range, currently at 1.4GHz. Although the clock speeds suggest that Intel is blazing ahead with a glorious new chip, it certainly is not.

On paper, the P4's original design was something which could have given AMD some grief. However, the thing that was actually released was nowhere near what the P4 was designed to be. Cost cutting and time meant that the P4 was released as a chip with an architecture well below anyone's standards. If P3's were able to run at 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 or 1.7GHz, they would undoubtably out-run the P4 in performance, clock for clock. Well the Athlon does run at 1.4Ghz, and as any gamer will tell you, the Athlon 1.4GHz will be marginally faster than a P4 1.7GHz. "So what?" you might say, you could buy a P4 and benefit from a new motherboard which has a greater upgrade potential, and everyone's going to have to upgrade to RIMMs one day aren't they? Well, quite frankly no, I'll tell you why the T-bird is better:

  • Quoting from an online retailer (Simply Computers), the T-Bird + 256Mb DIMM is £301.95
  • The P4 1.7GHz + 256Mb RIMMS is £534.61, that is a premium of £232.66 for a slower performing chip.
  • Motherboards next, these are two equivalent Abit motherboards: Abit KT7a-RAID (Athlon) is £144.51.
  • The P4 equivalent, Abit's TH7-RAID is £184.46. Okay, there is a difference of £39.95.

I won't bother going into the fact you cannot use your standard 300w PSU with a P4.

Then there is the future compatibility issue. Any P4 motherboards and RAM (this means RIMMs) are not compatible with the future P4, and will become redundant very soon. The Athlon motherboards are going to be compatible with the future Palomino Athlon 4, and will secure your investment on an AMD system today.

Well there you go, the P4 really hasn't got very much going for it at the moment.

So when is AMD going to take over the world??

The answer to that is no time soon. The new style P4 and Athlon 4 are going to be out reasonably soon, with the new P4 poised to perform better than it's lacklustre sibling. The P3 has been relegated to the budget pile, reluctantly, and the Duron is dancing circles round it. The Celeron has been binned. So why hasn't AMD stolen what Intel still has? The answer is simple - Marketing.

Your average consumer probably doesn't know that AMD exists, and quite frankly they probably don't care. They want blue bunnies and lightbulbs prancing around inside their cases, they want a little sticker on the front of their case that said "Intel inside". This is because Intel are very good at marketing their product to the end consumer. AMD hasn't been putting the effort in here, and has suffered as a result. It hasn't stolen the market as it so rightly should have done, it's still second place.

As far as huge businesses are concerned, they still aren't ready for AMD. Intel has a huge reputation for stable, mission-critical systems, and the barrier to entry is time. AMD are going to have to build a reputation for both stability and speed before firms even bother thinking about them. So far, AMD are doing well, their newest motherboards with AMD chipsets have been proven to be stable to an extent, and even the infamous VIA chipsets are beginning to get serious about the matter.

So the bottom line is, in time, AMD will grow stronger. Intel's supreme dominance for so many years is beginning to fracture, and AMD has rooted itself deeply as a firm competitor. AMD has shown itself to be more than able of competing with Intel, starting price wars, and really making the consumer much better off than they were before - high end processor prices have toppled. AMD has really given Intel something to worry about in the last 2 years and for now, at least, Intel's strength is declining.

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