Summary: Wondering how high the 333MHz Athlon XP 2600+ we reviewed last month can go? We were too! So we rounded up a fast motherboard, video card and were off to the races. Along the way, we discovered some interesting things about KT400 and how it scales on the 333MHz bus in relation to nForce2. Read on for the results in today's article!
When we published our 333MHz Athlon XP 2600+ review we were quite impressed with its performance, especially in relation to its predecessor. Despite running 50MHz slower than its 266MHz sibling (which operates at 2.13GHz), the 333MHz Athlon XP 2600+ finished roughly five percentage points faster than the 266MHz chip. This narrowed the gap between the 2600+ family and Athlon XP 2700+ considerably, the 333MHz CPU offered 97% of the performance of the Athlon XP 2700+ yet it officially costs 15% less. That made the chip a pretty good value in our eyes.
However, one topic we weren’t able to touch on in the original review was overclocking. During the overclocking phase of testing our reference motherboard died a premature death due to what appears to be a corrupt BIOS. With Comdex less than 36 hours away, we were left with no choice but to go with the numbers that we had. As impressive as they were, we still felt compelled to overclock our 333MHz Athlon XP 2600+ processor. Overclocking gives us an indication of how well the Thoroughbred B core the chip utilizes is scaling. Our 333MHz chip came off the line at AMD’s facility in Dresden, Germany just over two months after the initial Thoroughbred B CPUs we’d tested over the summer. We were curious to see if the newer chip may have had a few extra MHz lying under the hood. Plus, lets face it, overclocking is fun! With all that in mind, we hastily setup a new test system.
For cooling, we chose our copper heatsink manufactured by Vantec. This bad boy does a great job of keeping our Athlon XP CPUs cool, but at the expense of our ears. Every time we crank our system up with the Vantec cooler we feel like we’re on the flight line at Nellis Air Force Base, home of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds (among other things). This cooler is seriously that loud! As a result, we only crank it out when it’s time to overclock our CPUs, and even then we’ll sometimes stick with AMD’s reference coolers.
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
We tested the Athlon XP chips in comparison to Intel’s Pentium 4 line in our last review, so if you’re looking for those numbers, we suggest you go back there. What we’re trying to do now is show the difference the faster bus makes, as well as what kind of potential you can unlock with a 180MHz+ bus.
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
The margin between the 266MHz Athlon XP 2600+ and 333MHz chip opens up slightly in Serious Sam, three percentage points separate the two processors at 800x600. This is a little slimmer than the margins we noticed with nForce2, suggesting that it’s truly the superior platform for 333MHz processors.
Quake III - High Quality
Even in Quake 3 we’re seeing the same 3% gap between the 266MHz Athlon XP and the 333MHz variant, with nForce2 this number was 6%. We know what you’re thinking: “the video cards are different!” So we ran the numbers with the RADEON 9700 and KT400 – the margins didn’t change. Check out the conclusion of this article for those results.
Comanche 4 demo
Comanche 4 is a little more reliant on the CPU than the previous tests, so we were curious to see how the results played out. The margins actually closed slightly, as the 266MHz Athlon XP 2600+ now trails the 333MHz chip by 2% at 800x600.
Unreal Tournament 2003 - flyby
Unreal Tournament 2003 Botmatch – DirectX 8
Like Comanche 4, the margins tighten up in Unreal Tournament 2003, the 5 and 6% margins we saw a few weeks ago with nForce2 are now gone. There’s practically no difference between either processor on the KT400 platform.
Jedi Knight II – High Quality
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth
Business Winstone 2002
Content Creation Winstone 2002
In the process of running our simple little overclocking article, we not only discovered that the newer Athlon XP chips are scaling roughly the same as the first generation Thoroughbred B chips, we’ve also found that the KT400 chipset doesn’t scale as well as nForce2 with the new 333MHz Athlon bus. We always knew nForce2 was faster, now we also see it scales better as well. It will be interesting to see if the performance margins between both chipsets increase as clock speeds scale higher. In theory this is what should take place.
Of course, VIA is hard at work on its KT400A chipset. At Comdex we discovered that it will be a dual-channel implementation. When nForce was originally announced VIA criticized the chipset for its complexity, and even spread a rumor that it would require a six-layer motherboard design. Now they appear to be singing a different tune. The old saying “if you can’t beat him, join him” appears to apply. Here are those KT400/RADEON 9700 PRO numbers we promised earlier, as you can see the margin between the 266MHz and 333MHz CPUs remains the same 3% we saw with the Ti 4600. In comparison, we saw a 6% performance difference between both processors when paired with nForce2 and RADEON 9700 PRO.
As far as the Athlon XP 2600+ is concerned, we see no reason why you shouldn’t purchase the 333MHz chip if you have a motherboard based on the KT333 chipset or better. It costs the same as the 266MHz variant, both officially and among the street prices we’ve seen, and both processors are now readily available on the retail market.
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