Introduction

Just a year ago AMD was touting the release of the first 700MHz x86 CPU, this being the second time that year that they had beat Intel to the punch with a new CPU release.  First it was with the Athlon at 650MHz in September of 1999, and then the 50MHz boost to 700MHz gave us the first hints of what was soon to come from the underdog of the industry. 

This year has been nothing but amplified from 1999.  Intel’s losses pushed them even further back and AMD’s gains gave them even more credibility in the eyes of the public.  While there is still quite a large following that respects the “no one ever got fired for buying Intel” ideal, there is a growing population that respects AMD’s gains and has no problem adopting their Socket-A platform.  For these users, they have very good reason to go with AMD. 

While we were afraid at the end of 1999 that Intel would begin to compete with the Athlon in a price war, something which AMD, being a smaller company than Intel would have some serious problems with.  However the tables have most definitely turned, as AMD has been announcing price cut after price cut and the Athlon is now much cheaper than the Pentium III. 

Finding reliable platforms to run the AMD CPUs on was our biggest worry at the introduction of the Athlon, however after the initial problems with manufacturers adopting the AMD 750 chipset, we have seen incredible support for the Athlon. 

Relying on VIA to supply AMD users with chipsets was a worry as well since VIA has not historically had the best track record in terms of reliability.  However, VIA platforms have matured quite a bit since the days of the MVP3 and Apollo Pro Plus chipsets, all for the better. 

Not able to compete with AMD based on price or availability, Intel was left with two  options, compete based on performance and/or clock speed.  Performance-wise, the Pentium III has been fairly competitive with the Athlon, the only degrading factor here has been that clock for clock, the Pentium III has been more expensive than the Athlon.  Intel has, until recently, been able to compete with AMD based on clock speed, however the failed introduction of the 1.13GHz Pentium III is a clear indication of the limits of the Pentium III architecture on the 0.18-micron process.  It will be a while before we see the Pentium III able to compete with the Athlon on a clock speed basis. 

No longer holding onto a clock speed advantage, AMD’s release of an Athlon clocked at 1.2GHz will most likely be the last Thunderbird introduction we see this year.  But with a 200MHz clock speed advantage over the fastest Pentium III available, and still boasting a lower price than the lower clocked Pentium III, it has definitely been a good four months for the Thunderbird and an even better year for the Athlon platform as a whole. 

On the Duron side of things, AMD has already been enjoying a clock speed advantage over the competing Celeron for quite some time now. With the introduction of the Duron 750, AMD was finally able to not only beat the Celeron in terms of performance, but also in terms of clock speed, the latter being a very important factor to retail sales. If AMD can get the clock speed of the Durons high enough, while keeping the price low, it will most definitely gain some serious ground in the retail market.

Alongside the 1.2GHz Thunderbird, AMD is also bringing the Duron up to 800MHz in preparation for Intel's 733/766MHz Celerons that are on the way as well.

The Chips

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