AMD sets speed records with DDR-ready Athlons

Advanced Micro Devices is speeding again, with the launch yesterday of three Athlon processors and the 760 chip set--all designed to use fast Double Data Rate memory (DDR SDRAM).

          Advanced Micro Devices is speeding again, with the launch yesterday of three Athlon processors and the 760 chip set--all designed to use fast Double Data Rate memory (DDR SDRAM). A system from Micronpc.com, the first to use the new technology, is scoring higher on PC WorldBench tests than any Windows Me-based system yet tested.

          Micronpc.com expects to ship next week a built-to-order Millennia Max Xp line. PC World tested a preproduction unit with a sample configuration that prices out at US$3025. The unit comes standard with the 1.2-GHz Athlon, 256MB of 266-MHz DDR SDRAM, an NVidia GeForce2 GTS graphics card with 64MB of DDR SDRAM, a 30GB hard drive, an 8X DVD-ROM and 12X/10X/32X CD-RW combination drive, a 19-inch monitor, and Windows Me.

          Micronpc.com offers several other several featured configurations, as well. A unit with a 1.2-GHz Athlon, 128MB of 200-MHz DDR SDRAM, an NVidia GeForce2 graphics card with 64MB of DDR SDRAM, a 20GB hard drive, a 12X DVD-ROM and 8X/4X/32X CD-RW combination drive, a V.90 modem, a 17-inch monitor, Windows Me, and Microsoft Office Small Business Edition will sell for $1999. For $2699 you get the 1.2-GHz Athlon, 128MB of 266-MHz DDR SDRAM, a GeForce2 Ultra graphics card with 64MB of DDR SDRAM, dual 40GB hard drives, a 56k soft modem, and the same software.

          The Millennia Max Xp with 128MB of DDR SDRAM will be available in limited quantities on November 6; Micronpc.com will offer full-volume sales with additional memory by December. Also, Best Buy stores will soon carry a similar product called the Millennia RS3150A, according to a spokesperson. Expect similar Athlon-DDR systems from vendors such as IBM and Polywell in the near future.

          Micron Maxes Speed Tests

          In PC WorldBench tests, The 1.2-GHz Millennia Max Xp with 256MB of 266-MHz DDR SDRAM outperformed comparably priced 1-GHz Intel Pentium III-based PCs with SDRAM. The Millennia Max Xp blew away every other Windows Me desktop system yet tested, earning a score of 180 on the PC WorldBench 2000 test.

          That said, you may be able to save a few bucks and still get that level of performance in a system with a 1.1-GHz Athlon chip. For comparison, PC World upgraded a shipping 1.1-GHz Athlon PC, boosting its memory to 256MB of SDRAM, and it too scored 180 on the test suite. These results are nearly 8 percent higher than the score of a 1-GHz Athlon PC tested previously. The score is also about 10 percent above the averaged scores of two 1-GHz PIII systems (all tested with 256MB of SDRAM and Windows Me). This performance difference is sufficient to be noticed by most people.

          However, the 1.2-GHz Millennia Max Xp regained its undisputed champ status in additional tests with CPU-intensive applications. Improvements in these tests ranged from a 24 percent performance boost over the 1-GHz PIII systems for Photoshop 5.5, to an impressive 59 percent faster for the MusicMatch encoding test. The 1.2-GHz unit also outpaced the souped-up 1.1-GHz Athlon system on these tests, but by a relatively modest 9 percent.

          Athlon Meets DDR

          Based on SDRAM technology, DDR's evolutionary memory keeps pace with AMD's newly configured 1-GHz, 1.133-GHz, and 1.2-GHz Athlons, which offer a faster 266-MHz front-side bus. Previous Athlons used a 200-MHz bus, and AMD will continue to produce those chips for use with a slower version of DDR that runs at 200 MHz and existing PC-133 SDRAM. Intel's Pentium III's front-side bus maxed out at 133 MHz.

          DDR competes with Rambus (RDRAM), the next-generation memory that Intel has backed for the past year and will use in forthcoming Pentium 4 systems. The P4 front-side bus will run at 400 MHz.

          AMD has a bit of a jump on Intel, which is stalled at a 1-GHz PIII until it ships the P4, now expected in November. Until then, the newest Athlons are likely to draw intense power users and speed geeks who do complex calculations, multimedia creation, and serious game playing.

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