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AMD Athlon


AMD Athlon

The past 18 months have been some of the most successful months for the Number 2 x86 chip manufacturer AMD. The release of the Athlon processor in summer 1999 saw AMD for the first time claim the title of the fastest x86 chip manufacturer. Since then we have seen the AMD processor line rise from clock speeds of 500-600 MHz all the way up to 1.2 GHz with the introduction of the Athlon “Thunderbird” core.

Most recently AMD introduced the Athlon C which features support for 133 MHz (266 MHz DDR) Front Side Bus operation and lower clock multipliers. Coupled to this is the introduction of Double Data Rate SDRAM and the AMD-760 chipset which is the first major architecture change for AMD since the introduction of the Athlon nearly two years ago.

As ever, AMD are being pragmatic with the latest Athlon release by launching two versions to take advantage of either the 200 MHz EV6 (1.30 Ghz version) bus as used by the KT133 chipset or the 266 MHz EV6 (1.33 Ghz version) as used by the KT133A or AMD-760 chipsets. The question remains though, how do these new AMD chips compare to the threat from Intel’s Pentium 4 processor? This in ways is not as simple as it appeared back in November.

Palomino it is not

The weeks preceding the launch of the Athlon 1.3/1.33 Ghz saw considerable speculation concerning whether or not the latest release will be based upon the new “Palomino” core as opposed to the nine month old “Thunderbird” core.

Now that the 1.3/1.33 Ghz Athlons have arrived we can now see that they are indeed based upon the existing “Thunderbird” core. Should users worry about this? Well to be honest no they shouldn’t, unless case acoustics are a primary concern.

Why do we mention case acoustics? Whilst the “Palomino” core itself does not feature any architectural enhancements over the “Thunderbird”, it will feature a core manufactured using Isotopically pure silicon which will dramatically reduce its heat output. As a friend of the author will testify after recently building a system using a 1.2 Ghz Athlon, the heatsink & fan assembly required to cool the higher speed “Thunderbirds” does make rather a lot of noise. To be honest it has to as the “Thunderbird” produces quite a large amount of heat with the latest 1.3/1.33 Ghz parts posting a rather hot 73W of heat dissipation.

Like the current “Thunderbird” core, the “Palomino” will be manufactured using the current 0.18 micron process, but should produce considerably less heat (the author has seen figures cited in the region of 35W) which in turn will require a smaller and quieter heatsink & fan assembly.

According to recent reports the “Palomino” will debut for notebook users before it migrates onto the desktop platform with the 1.5 Ghz Athlon.

Whilst the 1.3/1.33 Ghz Athlon remains with the current “Thunderbird” core, what can users expect from AMD’s latest desktop chip? To find out, read on:


Athlon "Thunderbird".

Athlon 1.33 GHz - Page 2.



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