The First Encounter
|We first took a look at the upcoming AMD K7 slightly before this year's E3 Expo, as fate would have it, around the same time as the release of the K6, just two years ago. The performance of the K7, then clocked at 500MHz, was on par with a Pentium III 500. The system bus operated at a unique 125MHz, and AGP support was very limited. Needless to say, we were not impressed.|
The second encounter resulted in more positive results, in all but one test, the K7 550 managed to beat the Pentium III 500. The one test that resulted in a considerably lower score on the part of the K7 was Ziff Davis' FPU Mark, luckily the problem turned out to be related to a hardware bug with the CPU, one that was later fixed. The important thing to keep in mind at that point was that AMD had actually produced a chip, albeit still in beta stages, that could compete with a Pentium III, clock for clock, across the board, in games and business applications. The potential was there, but could AMD do it?
AMD promised a June release of the K7, and in June AMD approached us about reviewing the K7 now clocked at 600MHz and ready for action. Without refusing the NDAs were signed, and the system was in our hands. The results? Well, you're about to find out.
Take your K6 and shove it
AMD has had a reputation for some of the worst possible things a CPU manufacturer can be known for. They have been known for being slow to market, poor performers, incompatible, and by many, the name to stay away from. At the same time, there are users that swear by AMD, there are users that wouldn't dream of touching an Intel CPU and they're more than happy with their K6-X systems. What should both types of users assume of AMD's latest? Nothing at all, what was once known as the K7, is the first in a revolution for AMD as a CPU manufacturer. So take whatever you know and remember about the K6 line of processors and forget it, AMD built the K7 from scratch, and they have a new name to signify it, the name is Athlon.
Whereas the K6-2 and K6-III were essentially building blocks based on the original K6 foundation, the Athlon is a completely new design. It is the first 7th generation x86 processor to come to market, a move that the industry expected to be made first by Intel, and it is no doubt that AMD's sudden surfacing has startled more than a few people.