In the twelve months that made up the year 2000, there were a total of fifteen retail AMD Athlon processors that were announced, released to the public and shipped.  Of those fifteen Athlon processors, four were based on the old K75 core while the rest were based on the Thunderbird core announced in June of that year.  Three of the eleven Thunderbirds were Athlon-C processors, meaning they featured lower clock multipliers and used the 133MHz DDR FSB.  If you haven't gotten the hint by now, AMD released quite a few Athlons over the course of last year alone.  Interestingly enough, we haven't seen a single Athlon from AMD since October of 2000, just before Intel's Pentium 4 launch.

That fact isn't too surprising actually, seeing that the Pentium 4 was one of the most frequently criticized CPUs we had ever come across.  We were even pretty harsh on it upon its release, simply because the Athlon offered greater performance at a much lower cost while still making use of PC133 SDRAM.  It didn't help Intel's plight that the majority of the public views Rambus, their business partners with the Pentium 4 launch, as one of the more hated companies. 

AMD's initiation process into the mainstream and performance desktop PC market segments is complete.  No longer do OEMs and system integrators have to worry about AMD delaying their processor releases by 9 months nor do they have to worry too much that the yields on AMD CPUs are going to be low enough that they may cause problems for their customers.  The AMD of 2001 is a much more elegant, competitive, and obviously powerful force when compared to what it was just three years ago.  But in many ways, the AMD of 2001 has an entirely new set of worries today than they did three years ago.

Intel has been preaching that their Pentium 4 and its NetBurst Architecture provides a platform for the future, and that the performance of today's applications and games is a secondary concern in comparison to the performance the platform will offer further down the road and in many ways Intel is right.  History has shown us that as PCs get more popular, the software run on them become increasingly more demanding in areas such as memory bandwidth for example.  And as we move further down the road of PC evolution, you can expect there to be some actual use of the Pentium 4's 3.2GB/s of memory bandwidth, more than what currently exists today. 

Which brings up the argument in favor of AMD, and the reason that the most popular system configuration among hardware enthusiasts "in the know" happens to be an Athlon using no more than regular PC133 SDRAM.  Two or three years down the line, an Athlon with "only" 1.06GB/s of memory bandwidth will definitely be bandwidth limited, just like the Celerons with PC66 SDRAM became memory bandwidth limited as applications became more demanding.  When push comes to shove however, how many enthusiasts keep their system configuration static over the course of 2 - 3 years?  That is the question you've got to ask yourself when making this CPU and platform decision moving forward, all we can do is aid you in the process. 

With that said and done, today, AMD cranks up the release factory yet again from its five-month hiatus and graces us with the release of two new Athlons: the 1.33GHz and 1.30GHz parts based on the Thunderbird core; that's right, no Palomino just yet.

Palomino where are you?

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