Summary: Today we're taking a look at the second CPU AMD announced last month, the Athlon XP 2400+. Clocking in a 2.0GHz, we feel this chip offers more bang for your buck than any other CPU in AMD's lineup. Find out why we feel so confident about this statement as well as how high the chip overclocks in our Athlon XP 2400+ review!
To celebrate the launch of the original Athlon processor in 1999, AMD released two new processors: the Athlon XP 2600+ and the Athlon XP 2400+ on August 21st. Two weeks ago we examined the flagship Athlon XP 2600+, today we'll be looking at the Athlon XP 2400+. While we focused on the Athlon XP 2600+'s performance relative to Intel's Pentium 4 2.53GHz in that review, today we'll take a closer look at why we feel the Athlon XP 2400+ represents the best value in AMD's current lineup.
Before we examine the entire Athlon XP lineup, we would like to provide a brief recap of what makes the Athlon XP 2400+ and 2600+ so special. First of all, the Athlon XP 2400+ actually runs at a clock speed of 2.0GHz. For the Athlon XP 2400+ and Athlon XP 2600+ (which actually runs at 2.13GHz) AMD adjusted its processor rating system to reflect the new features that have been added to the Pentium 4, which dramatically improves its performance. Quite simply the old rating scheme was designed for older "Willamette" Pentium 4 processors with 256K L2 cache running on a 400MHz system bus. Today's fastest "Northwood" Pentium 4 CPUs boast twice as much cache and interface with a 533MHz bus. All subsequent Athlon XP releases will be based on the new formula, while previous models will retain the original formula.
Core changesBesides the adjustment made to the processor rating system, AMD made quite a few enhancements to the core of the Athlon XP 2400+ and XP 2600+. For instance, AMD added additional decoupling capacitors to reduce electromagnetic interference. To increase yields at clock speeds above 2GHz, an additional metal layer was added and the circuit paths within the processor were optimized. Because of these modifications, die size and transistor count have increased slightly, but power requirements remain in check.
These changes will allow the Athlon XP to scale to clock speeds well in excess of 2GHz; the previous core had problems even hitting 1.9GHz. Eventually these changes will work their way down to the other chips in the Athlon XP lineup, but for now the only way to guarantee you'll get one of these newer XP cores is to purchase an Athlon XP 2400+ or XP 2600+.
SIDEBAR: The "XP" in Athlon XP stands for eXtreme Performance
So just why do we feel the Athlon XP 2400+ represents the best value in the Athlon XP lineup. All you have to do is take a look at AMD's official processor pricing:
While we know this doesn't reflect the street prices you see online or at your local offline retailer, this is the best data we have as the Athlon XP 2400+ and XP 2600+ haven't hit the retail market yet. It remains to be seen if the Athlon XP 2400+ will be priced this competitively with its predecessors when it initially arrives on store shelves, but based on AMD's history, once supplies of the XP 2400+ are plentiful, pricing on the chip will be very aggressive. Complicating the situation are Intel's recent price cuts. As of today, the Pentium 4 2.4GHz is now priced at $193. When the Athlon XP 2400+ was originally launched, this was a $400 processor. Therefore, we wouldn't be surprised if AMD stepped in and cut prices again to account for this move.
According to officials at AMD, shipments have commenced on the XP 2400+ with availability set for later this month. Typically when AMD has released a new processor availability was immediate, but for the Athlon XP 2400+ this isn't the case. It has been two weeks since the chip began sampling, so we're hoping CPUs will begin hitting store shelves in the next few weeks.
OverclockingWe were able to hit the same clock speed with our Athlon XP 2400+ as we did with the Athlon XP 2600+: 2,304MHz. This time, we needed 1.9V of juice to get it to run with complete reliability. Lower voltages worked as well, but applications would crash from time to time. Rather than stick with the 144MHz bus we utilized in the Athlon XP 2600+ review, we decided to crank the bus up to 153MHz and set the multiplier for 15.0x. This resulted in a final clock speed of 2295MHz, but with the bus running 6% faster we were able to achieve better performance results. In fact, we broke the 300 fps mark in Quake 3!
SIDEBAR: AMD's latest processor pricing
AMD Athlon XP 2400+
AMD Athlon XP 2100+
Intel Pentium 4 2.53GHz
3DMark 2001 Second Edition - 32-bit color, 32-bit textures
SIDEBAR: Like our Athlon XP 2600+, the XP 2400+ we tested was a Week 31 processor.
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
3DMark 2001 - Car Chase
3DMark 2001 - Dragothic
3DMark 2001 - Lobby
3DMark 2001 - Nature
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
Quake III - High Quality
Jedi Knight II - High Quality
Content Creation Winstone 2002/Business Winstone 2001
Performance: It may not be the fastest chip on the block for AMD, but the Athlon XP 2400+ still packs an incredible punch. In our tests, the Athlon XP 2400+ delivers over 90% of the performance of the Athlon XP 2600+ and at a substantially lower price. If you're looking for a fast CPU to go with the rest of your system the Athlon XP 2400+ is certainly worthy of consideration.
New Stepping: The changes AMD has implemented in the Athlon XP 2400+ core will allow them to scale the Athlon XP to higher frequencies than ever before. Meanwhile power requirements are still kept in check. This is a win-win situation for consumers, and for AMD.
Overclocking: Athlon XP CPUs based on this new stepping will be a boon for overclocking community. Previous Thoroughbred chips were limited in the overclocking department; a 100MHz overclock was almost unheard of for the Athlon XP 2200+. With the Athlon XP 2400+ we reviewed today, we were able to achieve a 300MHz overclock! While we certainly don't guarantee these results for everyone, it's pretty safe to say that chips built on this new stepping will be better overclockers than their predecessors.
Pricing: While we're still crossing our fingers for another official AMD price cut, based on previous history we have a feeling that actual street prices on these chips will be substantially lower than the $193 the processor is listed at once supplies are readily available. For instance, the Athlon XP 2200+ lists for $183 officially yet it can be found for as low as $145 on Price Watch.
Intel is pricing its 2.4GHz Pentium 4 very aggressively; it can already be found for $203 online. If the Athlon XP 2400+ is too close to this mark, many consumers would rather purchase the Pentium 4 instead.
Availability: It has now been nearly two weeks since the Athlon XP 2400+ originally launched and it still can't be found on Price Watch, nor are vendors providing an ETA on when it will be available. This must be extremely frustrating for anyone in the market for a new CPU, as previous processor launches were followed by immediate availability. Making matters worse are the inflated prices consumers will have to pay initially. If you really want to maximize your money, wait a few weeks for supplies to build up and the prices on the Athlon XP 2400+ will fall even further.
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