The performance question
AMD's Athlon will begin to ship in mid August, and AMD is aggressive in their claims of supplying enough chips to fill demand. We've already seen what the Athlon can do
in terms of performance, but we haven't yet seen it in a head to head comparison against a same-speed Intel Pentium III. Despite any previous results, the biggest question has always been: Why not compare it against a P3 at 600MHz?
When time is a concern
Here's the clincher. The Athlon still isn't released yet. Sure, AMD has officially announced it. They've even claimed that the Athlon has shipped to manufacturers However, you still won't see it until the middle to end of August. The Pentium III 600, on the other hand, has been released, and has been available to the public for over a week now.
Why does this matter? Well, one of the biggest criticisms we've heard regarding AMD and the Athlon is its upper crust pricing. An Athlon 600 is slated to cost $699 in lots of 1000, the 550MHz version will be 479, and the 500MHz will be $324. Anyone used to AMD's aggressive markdowns on previous generation chips would certainly be shocked.
The argument has always been that by the time Athlon is released, Intel's current flagship processor will also be priced in the same range. Currently, Intel Pentium III 600s are selling for $660-$690, closely reflecting the inaugural pricing of the Athlon 600. However, by the time Athlon processors are widely available, it is likely that P3 prices will have dropped several percent.
It's not personal, just war
Due to the untimely arrival of Intel's P3 600, AMD has purportedly readied a 650MHz version of the Athlon for launch. Whether this will take over the $699 price of the 600, or stagger to an even more expensive high is currently unknown. AMD isn't planning on lingering at 600MHz, either. Rumor has it that Athon will be hitting 750MHz by the end of the year, and lately we've been seeing reports that 750MHz will be available as early as September! Just remember to take it with a grain of salt.
What we do know is that Kryotech, everyone's favorite supercooling company, is planning to release SuperG, an Athlon phase-cooled to 1GHz, sometime this year. It's reasonable to assume that Kryotech has been supplied with higher speed parts than what will be initially released, and experience tells us that supercooling can yield 25-30% gain on supposedly "maxed out" CPUs.