We're getting into the battle of size again with AMD and Intel. If you remember, the last time we left off with this competition based on clock speeds, prior to AMD's Thunderbird release, AMD had just released the 900, 950 and 1GHz Athlon parts, and in response, Intel made their 1GHz Pentium III parts available in "limited quantities" before releasing their 850 and 866MHz processors.
The release of AMD's Thunderbird and Duron processors in June created a welcome break from the seemingly month to month release of new CPUs that simply carried a higher clock speed. In fact, during the course of just 6 months, from October 1999 to March 2000, AMD released 7 different clock speed Athlons to compete with the 5 Pentium IIIs that Intel thrust forward into the marketplace. We all complain about the quick pace at which the graphics card industry moves, but can you imagine how loosely we would hold onto our sanity if NVIDIA released a higher clocked GeForce2 every month?
On the other hand, this constant flow of processors from the big two that are currently running the show has kept prices very reasonable. Just four months ago, having a 1GHz processor in your system meant spending around $1,000 or more on your CPU alone, thus reserving the chips for those that truly needed the power and those that had the ability to spend more than 1/3 of the cost of their computer on their CPU.
AMD has definitely been a proponent of bringing the performance market segment down in price but up in actual speed. With their most recent price cuts, AMD not only holds the title of the first company to offer the first 1GHz desktop CPUs but also the first to offer their 1GHz chips, in quantity, at below $500. To the end user, and the average AnandTech reader, an AMD Athlon "Thunderbird" running at 1GHz can be had for the price of NVIDIA's latest graphics solution, plus or minus a few bucks. But it isn't the very high end where AMD has brought us very pleasant prices -- an 800MHz Thunderbird can be had for $200 or less and an entry level Duron running at 600MHz is already being advertised at below $70. Each of these processors, from the highest 1GHz parts to the lowest 600MHz Durons features the same 200MHz FSB (100MHz DDR) and 133MHz memory bus support that demonstrate AMD's approach to differentiating between their products.
The Sunnyvale based company is back for another set in this clock speed tennis match that has been going on intensely for the past year now with senior rival, Intel. Intel most recently took control of the spotlight with their annual Fall developer's forum in San Jose that introduced, in more detail, the NetBurst architecture that will be powering their forthcoming Pentium 4 processor. In addition to that revelation, Intel's Pentium III family gained a new member this July, weighing in at a far from cute 1.13GHz, marking Intel's departure from the 50MHz clock speed increments and moving onto the 133MHz increments that each following Pentium III will jump up by.
It was the release of the 1.13GHz Pentium III that forced AMD to respond with their 1.1GHz Thunderbird today. If you remember, AMD had the Thunderbird running at 1.1GHz back in March at their renegade hideout (read: Hotel suite) outside of Intel's Spring IDF in Palm Springs, CA. We knew back then that the Thunderbird was capable of hitting 1.1GHz, but it wasn't until there was a clear need for such a processor that AMD thought to bring the beast out of training.
With Intel leading the clock speed race, it's AMD's turn to respond with their second four digit speed demon clocked at 1100MHz. Let's look at the newest member of the Athlon "Thunderbird" family.