AMD's Athlon XP: Great performance, poor marketingby Anand Lal Shimpi on October 9, 2001 7:00 AM EST
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As a quick comparison, here is the performance of an Athlon XP 1.53GHz (1800+) processor with SSE enabled and disabled under SYSMark 2001:
Enabling SSE gives the Athlon XP an incredible 18% increase in performance. This is a real world performance increase courtesy of SSE.
There is no performance increase in the Office Productivity suite where SSE is not used at all.
The overall performance of the Athlon XP is improved by a little over 8% because we enabled SSE.
You can clearly see that enabling SSE paints a much brighter picture for the Athlon XP; arguably a much truer picture of its performance. This brings up the question, how should we test the Athlon XP? With SSE enabled or disabled?
Obviously BAPco and Intel have both expressed concern over testing with this "patch" since it could set a dangerous precedent for CPU manufacturers releasing "patches" to "fix" performance issues in benchmarks. In this case, our opinion is that since the modification doesn't change the workload of the benchmark at all, rather it fixes a bug with the detection of a processor's features it is ok to use the patch. This is akin to using drivers that properly enable the features of a video card or a chipset, however in order for us to continue to use this workaround Microsoft must implement an officially sanctioned fix into Windows Media Encoder. From what we have been told, they have recognized the issue and they will fix the problem. It is our duty to present you all with the most thorough and complete performance data for the hardware we evaluate, and in doing so we must test the product with all features enabled.
Because we actually were aware of the problem and fully understood the issue before AMD released the patch, we feel comfortable in using the workaround. But, as a warning to AMD and any other manufacturer that finds themselves in a similar situation: work with the software developers to implement officially sanctioned patches; don't attempt to take benchmarking matters into your own hands. Had we not fully been aware of the problem, understood the issue and applied the workaround ourselves we would not have used such a patch from AMD or any other manufacturer.
If you don't feel as if the performance with SSE enabled under SYSMark 2001 is representative of the Athlon XP's performance, then feel free to mentally knock 8% off all Athlon XP scores but remember that the Athlon XP does have fully functional SSE support that works fine in all other applications outside of WME7.
With that out of the way, it's performance time.