The Competition

No CPU review is complete without a look at the competition and in this case the competition is AMD.  During Computex 2001 AMD announced their 760MP chipset, Athlon MP processor, and 1.4GHz Athlon CPU.  As you will remember from our review of the 760MP chipset, the Athlon MP processor makes use of AMD’s Palomino core and is identical to the desktop version of the chip which will be released later this year (in the August – September timeframe).  There are a number of performance enhancements that have been made to the Palomino core, for information on those read our technical analysis here.

Although AMD only wants you using the Athlon MP in 760MP motherboards, the chip will work fine in single processor configurations on regular desktop boards provided that the motherboard will support the CPU and that there is BIOS support for it as well.  At the same time, regular Athlons will work just fine in 760MP motherboards.  But the real question that most users are asking now is if the Athlon MP will work in their Socket-A motherboard and if the performance is worth it.

Motherboard support for the Athlon MP is currently quite poor, mainly because it’s only intended to work in 760MP motherboards so motherboard manufacturers have no real reason to worry about support on the desktop side of things.  For example, the Athlon MP would not work on the ASUS A7V133, A7A266, or A7M266 (not even a beta A7V266 we had in the lab).  In fact, the only motherboard the Athlon MP worked on when we first received it was the MSI K7 Master based on the AMD 760 chipset. 

With proper Motherboard/BIOS support the Athlon MP is an option for desktop systems.

Just recently we received MSI’s shipping revision of the MSI K7T266 Pro based on the VIA KT266 chipset which also had support for the Athlon MP; with the latest BIOS the board recognized it as an Athlon 4 (the name of the mobile version of the CPU that uses the same core).  We’re happy to report that the performance of the platform is quite impressive and the stability issues have been rectified since we first took a look at the board

However VIA is another month away from releasing a newer revision of their KT266 chipset that is supposed to offer much higher performance, so we’d suggest that you wait until then before purchasing any KT266 based motherboards.  We’ll save more information on the AMD chipset market for another review. 

The Athlon MP core’s haven’t been overclocking as well as we’d expect them to.  Out of the four 1.2GHz Athlon MP processors we have in the lab none of them would work on the K7T266 at 1.4GHz, even at 1.850V.  Using the 133MHz FSB the highest any of them would reach was 1.33GHz.  It would seem as if there is still a bit of maturing that needs to be done on the Palomino core before it is ready for prime time, luckily AMD does still have a couple of months before the desktop version must make its debut at 1.5GHz+. 

Introducing 4-Layer Pentium 4 Motherboards The Test
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