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AMD K6-3

The AMD K6 III logo: Image courtesy of AMD Corporation

The AMD K6 has been one of the most talked about processors in recent years. This is simply due to the fact that it was rude enough to upset Intel's very cosy position of being undisputed number one "x86" processor manufacturer. For a brief period before the launch of the Pentium II in 1997 the AMD K6 was the fastest PC processor available. AMD though have not just rested on their laurels with the K6 but have continually updated it to compete with whatever Intel has to throw at it. So in 1999, enter the K6 III.

The K6 III, what's new?

The AMD K6 III builds upon the proven core of its K6 and K6-2 predecessors. It incorporates the new "3Dnow!" instructions which were introduced in the summer of 1998 with the K6-2. Where the K6 III is different is that it sees its level 2 cache memory integrated directly onto the processor core. This is unlike earlier versions of the K6 family which have their level 2 cache located on the motherboard running at bus speeds of 66, 95 & 100 MHz.

The impact of the K6 III having 256 Kb of level 2 cache running at full clock speed are considerable. The chip's impressive integer performance is boosted to levels comparable with the Intel Pentium III 500 for this chip running at only 400 MHz. Obviously this has had the same effect upon the K6 III as the integrated cache had on the Celeron, turning it from a dismal performer to one of the best processor buys almost overnight.

Unfortunately the K6 III can not boast Pentium III levels of performance as regards its floating point math performance. Sadly this lags far behind the superb pipelined FPU of Intel processors. Certainly the addition of 3Dnow! has had a huge impact and is an example of some extremely clever design from AMD, but it does need optimised software and at best can only equal the superb FPU of its Intel counterparts.

The big advantage (for some) is that it uses the Super Socket 7 motherboard form factor. This couples some extremely affordable motherboards to what is the closest rival to the Pentium III. It also means that existing Super Socket 7 owners have a VERY nice upgrade path open to them. Obviously AMD doesn't want its buyers to start looking at the Slot 1/Socket 370 path for upgrades.

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