The chip we’re all wondering about is, of course, the Athlon. AMD is hoping to deliver 1 million Athlons this quarter, which is a high but reasonable goal. The future of the Athlon is a very bright one, and if AMD can deliver as they plan to, then the chip will most likely receive continued success throughout the first half of next year.

In order to compete on a clock for clock basis with Intel, AMD’s roadmap features an accelerated release of the 750MHz Athlon. The Athlon 750 will be based on the K75 core which differs from the original K7 core in that it is based on a new 0.18-micron fabrication process. Keep in mind that this new 0.18-micron core is not Copper based and still uses Aluminum interconnects. According to AMD, the move to 0.18-micron is going very well and they should have no problem producing enough chips for the market to consume. Also on the day of the announcement of this upcoming processor, systems will be available for sale based on it. While this may not seem like much, it has been something that AMD hasn’t been able to accomplish in the past few years.

In the first quarter of next year we can expect a follow-up to the 750MHz Athlon in the form of you guessed it, a 800MHz CPU based on the same K75 core. A 900MHz CPU should follow shortly thereafter. If you are skeptical about AMD’s ability to release an 800MHz or 900MHz Athlon, here is some food for thought. Remember just two months ago when the only 800MHz Athlon available was the Cool Athlon 800 by Kryotech? We managed to take a look at an air-cooled Athlon 800 and 900 running with just a standard heatsink and fan (although the fan was a fairly large unit). Using the 0.18-micron process, it is very possible for AMD to push these high frequencies, and don’t be surprised if they do even more once the yields on 0.18-micron CPUs improve.

Still in the first half of 2000, we will see the introduction of AMD’s Thunderbird CPU. The Thunderbird will be based on the same 0.18-micron K75 core from above and will feature a full speed, on-die L2 cache. We were afraid that AMD would decrease the size of the L2 cache of the Athlon when moving it on-die but apparently the size will most likely stay at 512KB. This will dramatically increase the transistor count of the already complex Athlon CPU and will definitely provide for a nice boost in performance across the board and will improve the performance boost you get at higher clock speeds (L2 cache speed scales directly with CPU speed).

The introduction of the Thunderbird will also mark the branching off of the Athlon into two distinct form factors. The first form being the standard 242-pin Slot-A that we were first introduced to the Athlon with, and the second a 426-pin Socket-A interface that will help to remove some of the cost of the already affordable CPU. AMD is following in Intel’s footsteps here by taking advantage of the fact that by moving the L2 cache entirely on-die, there is no longer a need for the Slot-A PCB. During the first half of 2000 the two CPUs (Slot-A & Socket-A) won’t differ in frequency or performance at all(they’ll be using the same CPU, just different physical interfaces).

Index Spitfire

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