Socket A Processor Comparison

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Does a Faster CPU mean a Faster System?

With the recent introduction of the new Athlon 1.4GHz and Duron 950MHz CPU’s I started to wonder: Do these faster CPU’s actually show a gain in overall system performance or does the rest of the system limit the performance gain? If there does seem to be a point of diminishing return with faster CPU speeds what might be the cause? Is there that much difference between the performance of an Athlon and Duron CPU? If so what might be the cause? Only one way to find out – test them.

So I decided to run a series of benchmarks using an Athlon 1.0GHz, 1.2GHz and the new Athlon 1.4GHz CPU, along with a Duron 800 and the new Duron 950 CPU. The Athlon has 256K of on die full speed L2 cache and is currently available in 200 (100MHz HostClk) and 266MHz (133MHz HostClk) FSB versions, from 950MHz to 1.4GHz. I feel it only makes sense to use the 266 FSB version since both the CPU and PC133 memory don’t cost any more than their 100MHz counterparts, and the extra bus speed does help performance, at least a bit. I didn’t see any reason to use every speed version and chose to use the fastest, middle range and slowest 266 FSB versions (that ruled out the 1.13 & 1.33GHz). The Duron has 64K of on-die, full speed L2 cache and is currently available in 800 / 850 / 900 and the new 950MHz, but uses only a 200MHz FSB (100MHz HostClk), so I chose to compare the fastest and slowest – the 800 and 950MHz versions.

These CPU’s are still based on the ‘Thunderbird’ (for Athlon) or ‘Spitfire’ (Duron) core technology, while only the new mobile Athlon 4 and Athlon MP multiprocessor CPU’s use the new ‘Palomino’ core so far. I’ve asked AMD as to when we will see the Palomino based desktop CPU and have been told the T-Bird for desktop applications will still be with us for quite some time. The latest AMD Road Map I’ve received shows the T-Bird core Athlon stopping at 1.4GHz, with the Palomino core used above that (and as low as 1.3GHz). It also shows the Palomino and Morgan core for desktop use sometime in the second half of 2001, which means anywhere from July through December. AMD will also change the CPU packaging starting with the Palomino 1.4GHz and above, and 200MHz FSB CPU’s will be available through 1.5GHz (including Palomino’s). I’ve heard no talk and seen no real info on the ‘Morgan’ core for the Duron – when, speeds or anything else.

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