I don't have to give you a conclusion here, the benchmarks speak for themselves, the Athlon is the fastest desktop x86 processor on the market. It would take at least a 700MHz Pentium III to start to beat AMD's Athlon, but even if Intel does release a Pentium III 700 ahead of schedule, the price of a lower clocked but faster Athlon will still be lower than a 700MHz Pentium III. There is nothing in Intel's current family of processors that can match the performance of the Athlon, even the forthcoming Coppermine will have trouble competing against AMD's latest flagship.
Intel will most likely try to turn this into a price war of sorts, by driving the prices of the Pentium III and Celerons even lower Intel will hope to force AMD to do the same. As a company, AMD can't afford to get into a heated price war for long periods of time with Intel. Being the larger company, Intel can last longer in a price war than AMD can, thus for AMD, a price war is not the ideal situation for the Athlon.
Keep in mind that AMD has a much larger low end product line than Intel, while Intel has the Celeron, AMD now has the K6-III and K6-2 to play around with when it comes to keeping prices competitive. The K6-III is no longer the flagship, and therefore doesn't have to be priced as one. It should be interesting to see what Intel comes up with in retaliation to the Athlon, but whatever it is, don't expect to see it anytime this year. Intel may be able to push higher clock speeds than AMD in 1999, but as far as performance goes, it'll take much more than a Coppermine to beat the Athlon.
Just because the Athlon is finally out the door doesn't mean that AMD will stop moving forward, they've got quite a bit in the works and they're definitely not going to stand idle while Intel tries to regain the lead as they've done in the past.
In the present time, AMD has the lead and Intel should be going back to the drawing board to rethink their approach towards competing with AMD. But when can you buy an Athlon? After talking to a number of vendors, the biggest complaint seems to be that companies like Compaq are buying up all the Athlons. The earliest you'll be able to go out and order an Athlon online seems to be in about two weeks, however that time frame is by no means a guarantee. In the past, AMD has had a number of problems delivering on their promises, this time, the performance is there, and if AMD can't deliver this part, it may be their last.
Luckily the news seems to be good so far, yields on the Athlon aren't great, but they're not poor. Assuming AMD can deliver on the demand for the Athlon (OEMs will start advertising Athlon based systems starting August 16, 1999), the next question is who will make the motherboards? Until recently, there haven't been many decent quality boards for non-Intel platforms, the Super7 market is the perfect example of that. Our first in lab experiences with Athlon boards haven't been pleasant and we can only hope that the right motherboard manufacturers will step up and support the Athlon.
AMD has finally made a chip that takes us all back to the days of the 386, when Intel wasn't the chip giant they are now, and AMD was the maturing company on the rise. Once again, kudos to AMD for a job well done, but the game isn't over yet, not by a long shot...
The Future of the Athlon