AMD to release its fastest chip to date

The Athlon XP 2200+ gains nearly 70MHz over its predecessor. While analysts say that's not enough to smoke the quickest Pentiums, AMD has won over some PC makers.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
2 min read
AMD will introduce its newest desktop PC processor, the 1.8GHz Athlon XP 2200+, next Monday, sources say.

The new chip, AMD's highest-performance desktop chip to date, gains nearly 70MHz over its predecessor, the Athlon XP 2100+.

With the new chip available, PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard are expected to debut several new desktops. Among those, HP will have desktops under both HP Pavilion and Compaq Presario brands, sources said.

The introduction of the new chip will also reignite the three-year-old Athlon-versus-Pentium battle waged between AMD and rival chipmaker Intel.

While the Athlon XP doesn't offer the same clock speed as Intel's Pentium 4, AMD says the chip does more work per clock cycle, allowing it to match or beat a faster Pentium 4.

This time, however, though the Athlon XP 2200+ continues to match most Pentium 4s, analysts said it is likely to be outpaced by the two fastest chips from Intel: the 2.4GHz and 2.53GHz Pentium 4s.

AMD had claimed the upper hand in performance for a while, with the advent of the Athlon XP. But now, with Pentium 4's clock speed gains, there's no question that "the performance pendulum has swung back to Intel," said Dean McCarron, principal at Mercury Research.

Because of the megahertz mismatch, consumers are "actually better off looking at the model number," for a measure of the chip's performance, McCarron said.

"Yes, there's going to be a performance difference (between the Athlon XP and the Pentium 4), but it's not the same as 1.8GHz versus 2.53GHz; it's more like 2200 versus 2500," a smaller difference.

But despite losing some performance ground to Intel, AMD is winning elsewhere. The chipmaker has added several new brand-name PC makers to its roster of late.

This week, Sony launched a new line of Vaio desktop PCs, with three models using a version of the Athlon XP chip.

In recent weeks, Hewlett-Packard reintroduced retail versions of its Pavilion PC using the chip, after several months of Web-only sales. Low-price PC maker Emachines also recently introduced a new Athlon desktop.

While AMD has spent most of this week drumming up support for its next-generation Athlon and Opteron chips, due in 2003, the new Athlon XP chip debut next week will set the stage for AMD for most of the rest of this year.

AMD will continue to offer higher model-number processors for both desktop and notebook PCs.

A new Athlon XP 1800+ notebook chip, for example, is expected later this month or possibly early next month.

Meanwhile, Athlon XP will get a bump in the form of a chip dubbed "Barton." Barton will add a larger 512KB on-chip data cache, doubling the cache size from 256KB. The increase aims to boost performance by allowing the chip to access larger amounts of data quickly.

Barton will come in the second half of this year.

AMD declined to comment on unannounced products.