Summary: Earlier this month we took a look at AMD's Athlon XP 2700+, today we're evaluating its faster sibling, the 2800+ model. Like the Athlon XP 2700+, the 2800+ chip supports AMD's new 333MHz bus and clocks in at 2.25GHz. See how this processor performs when paired with NVIDIA's nForce2 chipset in our preview of this exciting upcoming platform!
Late in August, AMD announced the Athlon XP 2600+ and 2400+ processors, running at 2.13 and 2.0GHz, respectively. We say announced because the 2400+ only recently became available for public consumption, and the 2600+ is still nearly impossible to find. Nevertheless, roughly one month later, both the Athlon XP 2700+ and Athlon XP 2800+ are ready for public consumption.
Now, it may seem silly for AMD to continue announcing processors, considering the current plight of the Athlon XP 2600+. The debut of the 2700+ and 2800+ represents more than just another frequency increase, though. Mainly, both chips support a 333MHz front side bus – a first from AMD. The new bus requires platform support, of course, and NVIDIA’s nForce2 is hitting the scene just in time to support the new processors.
Neither the 2700+ running at 2.17GHz nor the 2800+ running at 2.25GHz are currently accessible to enthusiasts looking to upgrade. However, AMD claims that the 2700+ should be available in OEM systems in November and available to enthusiasts later in the fourth quarter. Athlon XP 2800+ processors will begin surfacing in systems from Falcon Northwest and the like in December, with wider availability expected at the beginning of next year. Keep that in mind when you draft your Christmas lists.
Not Your Everyday Greyhound
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
The 2.25GHz Athlon XP 2800+ demonstrates an impressive gain over the 2.0GHz 2400+ in 3D Mark 2001 SE, especially at 800x600 where processing power is stressed more than graphics capabilities. Keep in mind the A7N8X test-bed houses a pre-production board, so performance may improve once retail hardware becomes available. NVIDIA claims that the best performance is achieved using a synchronous memory bus, so while the chipset itself supports DDR400 memory, our benchmarks reflect performance at 333/333MHz.
3DMark 2001 - Car Chase
3DMark 2001 - Dragothic
3DMark 2001 - Lobby
3DMark 2001 - Nature
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
Compared to the other 3D benchmarks, Serious Sam SE just doesn’t seem to emphasize processor performance as much as it does graphics performance (at least in the Elephant Atrium demo). Nevertheless, at 800x600, the Athlon XP 2800+ beats the Pentium 4 by about five percent. Here we see the benefit afforded to the faster bus as well. Mainly, the difference between the 2800+ operating on a 333MHz bus and the 2400+ operating on a 266MHz bus is nearly nine percent.
Quake III - High Quality
Quake III has long favored the Pentium 4 and its NetBurst micro-architecture, so it’s no surprise that Intel’s 2.8GHz flagship rules the benchmark. However, at low resolutions, the result is already slight and as the Ti 4600 card becomes more of a bottleneck, the scores continue to even out. Keep in mind that if your video card is slower than NVIDIA’s Ti 4600 (think Ti 4200 or RADEON 8500), the graphics bottleneck will kick in even sooner, say, 1280x1024.
Comanche 4 appears to be processor-bound, which is why, even at 1600x1200, there is still a sizeable discrepancy between the Athlon XP 2400+ and the faster model (not to mention the 2.8GHz Pentium 4, which beats both Athlon processors). The difference between the XP 2800+ and 2.8GHz Pentium 4 isn’t major, though, so we’d imagine an overclockable nForce2 board would be able to overcome the performance gap.
Jedi Knight II
Jedi Knight II centers on the Quake III engine. Therefore, it is a little surprising that the Athlon XP 2800+ is able to take top honors in each resolution. Even more impressive, though, is the nine percent advantage the Athlon XP 2800+ holds over the 2400+ even at 1600x1200, a resolution normally restricted by potential of a graphics card.
Unreal Tournament 2003 demo - flyby
Unreal Tournament 2003 demo - botmatch
At 1600x1200, the Unreal Tournament Demo is clearly limited by the GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics card. Lower resolutions are also close, and the Athlon XP and Pentium 4 exchange blows at 800x600, 1024x768 and 1280x1024. Of course, the Pentium 4 paired to an i850E chipset would likely run faster, but Intel’s gradual transition to DDR memory seems to indicate the gradual fazing out of RDRAM.
SiSoft Sandra 2002
The 333MHz system bus is theoretically capable of transferring 2.7GB per second of information. In comparison, the prior 266MHz bus pushed, at most, 2.1GB. Even if an older platform supported DDR33 memory, a processor running on a 266MHz front side bus would hover around 2GB per second of real-world memory bandwidth because of the bottlenecked system bus. Now, the nForce2 chipset, running DDR333 memory at CAS2, in addition to a 333MHz system bus, is able to drive roughly 2.5GB per second of information. – nearly the same as Intel’s i845PE chipset equipped with identical memory.
It isn’t easy to pass judgment on a product that won’t be available to enthusiasts until after we’ve sung “Auld Lang Syne.” Additionally, Intel will already have released the 3.06GHz, HyperThreading-capable Pentium 4 before anyone is able to get their hands on an Athlon XP 2800+. No matter - AMD is content, for now, showing the world what Fab 30 in Dresden, Germany is capable of producing.
At the same time, this demonstration is a little worrisome. The Barton core, with its 512KB Level 2 cache, is expected some time after the 2800+ becomes widely available, and of course, before the K8 architecture hits the streets. So if Athlon XP 2800+ situation isn’t expected to improve until late December or early January, what then could we hypothesize about the Barton core? How about the status of the Hammer architecture? Fortunately, the Athlon XP 2700+ should be available by the end of December – just in time to serve as a last minute stocking stuffer.
AMD isn’t executing like the juggernaut that once beat Intel to the 1GHz milestone. The Athlon XP 2200+ wasn’t exactly the breakthrough .13-micron processor we had hoped for and the 2400+, 2600+, 2700+ and 2800+ have all been launched without established availability. The 2800+ may be able to outpace the 2.8GHz Pentium 4 in the majority of our gaming tests, but if it can’t be bought, AMD won’t make any money on it.
Finally, AMD’s pricing schedule looks to be highly aggressive, but remember that Intel will likely cut its own prices to compete against the Athlon XP 2800+, once it finally does become a popular processor.
SIDEBAR: Are you anticipating the Athlon XP 2800+? Are you upset that AMD announced it months before the processor would be readily available? Let your voice be heard!
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