Athlon XP: A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Just a little over two months ago AMD rung in 2002 by launching the Athlon XP 2000+. Running at 1.67GHz and utilizing AMD’s Palomino core, the XP 2000+ was AMD’s counterpunch to the “Northwood” variant of the Intel Pentium 4. Built on a 0.13-micron manufacturing process and containing 512KB of level two cache we expected the Athlon XP 2000+ to fall behind the Northwood Pentium 4 in terms of performance, but instead the XP 2000+ frequently outperformed Northwood. Despite its 300MHz+ clock speed disadvantage the Athlon XP 2000+ demonstrated excellent performance in our tests with Serious Sam and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but Quake 3 continued to favor the Pentium 4. In short, the Athlon XP 2000+ proved that paper spec comparisons can be very misleading when it comes to real world performance. To spice up the competition between its rival a bit more, yesterday AMD released its Athlon XP 2100+.
So what differentiates the Athlon XP 2100+ from its predecessor? With the exception of its new clock multiplier (13.0x), nothing has changed internally. At 1733MHz, the Athlon XP 2100+ is 67MHz faster than its predecessor, just as the Athlon XP 2000+ was 67MHz faster than its sibling. While the 67MHz clock speed increases are getting a bit boring (especially in light of Intel’s recent 200MHz jumps), as we found when overclocking the XP 2100+, the current iterations of the Palomino core appear to be approaching the ceiling of what clock speeds they can achieve. However, we’ll talk about this aspect of the XP 2100+ a bit later in this article.
The Athlon XP 2100+ is the first XP launch processor to utilize AMD’s green substrate; previous XP processors were brown. AMD will be transitioning all of its XP chips to this green packaging, although brown 2100+ processors are also in circulation. Other than the new color, the organic packaging of the XP 2100+ remains unchanged. Don’t expect any difference in performance between a brown XP processor or a green one unless you’re into coordinating the color of your processor to your motherboard, neither chip has an advantage over the other.