The K7, Revisited
It sure has been hot here in the FiringSquad office lately, for a couple of reasons. The first reason is because our air conditioning is getting serviced, so it's out today. The other reason, which is the more prominent one, is due to all of the heated debate that we've been following via email and message board activity ever since we posted our K7 Hands-On Preview. We'd like to take a second to follow up on some of the things that have been observed, and shed some new information on the K7 and AMD motherboard technology we saw. Hopefully we'll be able dispel some of the "K7 sucks" talk that we've been hearing and seeing. We want to make sure the K7 is presented in a correct light, although only a pre-production sample.
First and foremost, we have to mention that which you have heard before but must hear again. Some readers are placing too much weight on the numbers that were given. Well, we tried to give a good number of caveats throughout the preview that although we were taking some numbers and posting them, the product itself is an engineering sample, and we had no control over any CPU-specific patches or drivers installed. This of course means that the numbers can be interpreted in any variety of ways.
Please realize that we were looking at a sample of a product that was running on software and hardware that may not have been fully optimized for it. Proper software optimization and driver support changes everything. For example, we know that the K7 requires a bus mastering driver, an AGP mini-port, and DirectX drivers, so depending on whether or not they were installed correctly on our test system, we may see some improvements there. Unfortunately, at the time of the "sneak peek" that we got, these weren't available for our control. We're sure that there are a number of K7's with major hardware and software developers as we write this, all developing tweaks to optimize for the K7.
It has also been brought to our attention that there has been question as to how old the particular K7 that we looked at was, as some people (and websites) have speculated that it is a very old "debug" model. Quite frankly, it's not. While it is an "Engineering Sample" the K7 we have is a very recent build, and according to our sources, is as close to release as AMD will be able to accomplish by June. It is highly unlikely that any architectural changes will be made to the K7 from the one that we were able to see, if the timeline for its release is still being followed. We are talking about a product that is supposed to be released within a month's time!