||AMD Athlon XP 3000+ Review
February 10, 2003 Brandon Bell & Chris Angelini
Summary: AMD's long awaited Barton core is here! Unlike previous Athlon XP processors, Barton brings with it an additional 256K of L2 cache, bringing the total up to 512K. The goal is to increase Athlon XP's performance, but is the additional cache enough to outperform Intel's Pentium 4 3.06GHz? Find out in our review!
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 13 )|
A little over a week ago, AMD dropped some surprising news on industry watchers and enthusiasts, AMD would not be releasing its 64-bit desktop processor, Athlon 64, until September 2003. This chip was expected to make its debut in early Q2 of this year, although AMD always said it would be a release with limited initial availability. Instead, the company announced that it was pinning its immediate future on its upcoming “Barton” Athlon XP core. AMD would debut Barton with its Athlon XP 3000+ on February 10, today, with a 3200+ model to follow in mid-2003.
If you recall AMD’s earlier roadmaps, Barton was originally scheduled for release in the second half of 2002. Setbacks pushed the chip into 2003, and AMD dropped its plans to incorporate silicon-on-insulator manufacturing technology. Silicon-on-insulator allows the transistors within the processor to operate faster while at the same time reducing power consumption, but this technology will now have to wait for Athlon 64 later this year.
So what does the new Barton core bring to the table? The big addition is the new L2 cache, which has doubled in size from 256K to 512K.
If you recall CPU micro-architecture, today’s latest desktop processors contain two forms of cache memory Level One cache (L1) and Level Two cache (L2). L1 cache is the first place the processor looks for the data it needs. All Athlon XP processors (including Barton) contain a 128K L1 cache, 64K for data, and 64K for instructions.
If the data can’t be found in the L1 cache, the processor next turns to the L2 cache. This is the second, and final line of defense for the processor. This is the last form of high-speed memory that the processor has access to, after the L2 cache the processor next turns to system memory, and following that, the worst case scenario: the system hard drive. Each additional stage introduces more latency, and thus, reduces performance. Therefore, its important that the processor’s memory subsystem is capable of keeping it well fed with data (especially as clock speed rises).
As we mentioned previously, AMD has implemented a 512K L2 cache that is 16-way set associative (the more associative the cache is the greater the hit rate i.e. the probability of the processor finding the data it needs), to accomplish this. Traditionally, doubling the L2 cache has brought a performance improvement of roughly one processor speed grade. In the case of Intel’s “Northwood” Pentium 4 processor core, we witnessed a 9% performance gain at 2GHz. If AMD can get similar results out of Barton, the new core could be perfect for holding off the competition from Intel. Barton essentially bridges the gap between the Athlon XP family and Athlon 64. Lets delve a little further into the new core.
SIDEBAR: The official PR
| More core changes||Page:: ( 2 / 13 )|
By incorporating more cache within the processor core, transistor count increases from approximately 37.6 million transistors in AMD’s Thoroughbred core to 54.3 million in Barton. These additional transistors equate to a 17% increase in die size – 84mm2 in Thoroughbred versus 101mm2 in Barton. Like the Athlon XP 2800+ announced last year, maximum heat dissipation is 74.3W on the Athlon XP 3000+, while voltage remains at 1.65V. Since the Athlon XP 3000+ is running at 2.167GHz (the same clock speed as the Athlon XP 2700+), the Barton core pushes the thermal envelope a bit further than Thoroughbred clock-for-clock, but the levels are still acceptable enough for today’s latest heatsinks.
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Two additional Bartons
Besides the Athlon XP 3000+, AMD is launching two additional processors based on its Barton core. These are the Athlon XP 2800+ and the Athlon XP 2500+. After reading this, you’re probably wondering why AMD would release an additional Athlon XP 2800+ processor. Well, if you’ve been shopping for an Athlon XP 2800+ processor lately, you can probably guess the answer to this: supply on these processors is still limited, even though the processor was originally announced just over four months ago.
Our best guess is that AMD is still having problems getting good yields of these chips at the 2.25GHz the CPU requires and thus they’ve decided to “reintroduce” the processor with the Barton core operating at a more feasible 2.083GHz. We’ve also been told by AMD that going forward, the vast majority of Athlon XP 2800+ CPUs on the market will be based on the Barton core; therefore we wouldn’t be surprised if Thoroughbred 2800+ production is in the closing stages as we speak.
To see how the two chips stack up against each other, we ran a Thoroughbred Athlon XP 2800+ against a Barton Athlon XP 2800+. Here are the results:
While AMD demonstrated a Barton system running with a 400MHz bus speed at Comdex last year, the Barton processors announced today all share a 333MHz front-side bus. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as we still haven’t seen a motherboard capable of operating reliably at 400MHz, but we can only imagine the performance a 400MHz Barton system would bring to the table. With Athlon 64 right around the corner, these 400MHz processors will probably never leave AMD, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
SIDEBAR: The Athlon XP 2500+ clocks in at 1.833GHz
| Pricing, Overclocking||Page:: ( 3 / 13 )|
Price and availability
Here are the latest list prices for the Athlon XP line of processors. Keep in mind that these are the prices AMD charges its customers in 1,000 unit quantities, and do not reflect street prices. We’ve actually found that AMD’s list prices tend to be a bit higher than the prices you find at online retailers.
|AMD's Official Processor Pricing
In comparison to Intel’s official price list, the Athlon XP 3000+ is priced 8% lower than the Pentium 4 3.06GHz (which is priced at $637), while the Athlon XP 2800+ falls just $4 below the Pentium 4 2.8GHz; a similar trend holds true for the Athlon XP 2600+ and 2500+. Surprisingly, the Athlon XP 2400+ officially sells for the same price as the 2.4GHz Pentium 4.
In terms of availability, AMD has stated that all of these Barton processors should be available shortly after launch, this won’t be a repeat of the Athlon XP 2800+, which was always intended to be a limited release for 2002. This should be welcome news to those of you who plan on upgrading in the near future.
Of course, by adding an extra 256KB of cache to the Athlon’s core, the processor picks up a measurable performance increase. Consequently, even though it operates at a slower clock frequency than its predecessor, the Athlon XP 3000+ is still faster than the 2800+ based on the Thoroughbred core. In taking that small step back in megahertz, AMD has also bought itself some time, as the K7 architecture is bound to hit a ceiling at some point (much the same way as the Pentium III did on its .18-micron process).
This also means overclocking enthusiasts probably have more headroom to play with, as we’ve already seen the Athlon XP 2800+ hit 2.4GHz in our Performance Preview. Armed with the same SLK-800, we showed no mercy in overclocking the 3000+. Finally, using a 190MHz front side bus and a 1.8V setting in the BIOS of our ASUS A7N8X, we hit a perfectly stable 2.47GHz. We did manage in excess of 2.5GHz, but 3D Mark would consistently cause the system to reboot.
The ramifications of our overclocking are twofold: to begin, we bet overclockers will have a field-day with the Athlon XP 2500+ and even the 2800+. Secondly, AMD clearly has some room to extend the life of the Athlon XP before it becomes absolutely necessary to introduce the Athlon 64 later this year.
SIDEBAR: The ASUS A7N8X was the reference platform for the Athlon XP 3000+.
| System Setup||Page:: ( 4 / 13 )|
AMD Athlon XP 3000+
AMD Athlon XP 2700+
Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz (Hyper-Threading Enabled)
ASUS A7N8X Deluxe nForce2 Motherboard
ASUS P4PE 845PE Motherboard
ASUS P4T533-C i850E Motherboard
512MB Corsair XMS3200 CAS2 Memory
512MB PC1066 RDRAM (for RDRAM system)
ATI RADEON 9700 Pro 128MB
30GB IBM Deskstar DTLA 307030 ATA-100 Hard Drive
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1
Desktop resolution 1024x768, 32-bit color, 75Hz refresh
All power saving options were turned off, as were the Automatic Update and System Restore services. Graphics options under the ‘Performance’ tab were all disabled for maximum performance.
Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo
3D Mark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 – 32-bit color
Quake III: Arena version 1.17 ‘Demo001’ demo
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter – 32-bit color, Elephant Atrium demo
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth Benchmark
SIDEBAR: Check out AMD’s latest processor roadmap
| 3D Mark 2001 SE||Page:: ( 5 / 13 )|
3D Mark 2001 SE v.330 – DirectX 8
The Athlon XP 3000+ and Pentium 4 3.06GHz run neck-and-neck in 3DMark 2001, but the benchmark does favor the Athlon XP. Clock-for-clock we see a 4% performance improvement over the Athlon XP 2700+, which is based on the older Thoroughbred core.
SIDEBAR: 3DMark 2003 is almost here!
| 3D Mark 2001 SE – Frame Rates||Page:: ( 6 / 13 )|
3DMark 2001 - Car Chase
3DMark 2001 - Dragothic
3DMark 2001 - Lobby
3DMark 2001 - Nature
SIDEBAR: AMD will be releasing its 64-bit Opteron processor (for servers) in April.
| Serious Sam SE||Page:: ( 7 / 13 )|
Serious Sam SE (Elephant Atrium) – OpenGL
The Serious Sam engine has always favored the Athlon XP platform, so it’s no surprise to see the AMD processors win a clean sweep in this benchmark. In contrast to 3DMark 2001 (which is more of a video benchmark) we see that the new Barton core brings an additional 6% of performance at 800x600.
SIDEBAR: We’ve already received one gaming PC with the Athlon XP 3000+ processor. Expect the review soon!
| Quake III: Arena||Page:: ( 8 / 13 )|
Quake III v.1.17 Demo001 – OpenGL
Just as Serious Sam has traditionally had a preference for the Athlon XP, Quake 3 has always favored the Pentium 4. The additional cache does yield a 5% performance improvement clock-for-clock.
SIDEBAR: AMD plans to shift to the 0.09-micron manufacturing process next year.
| Comanche 4||Page:: ( 9 / 13 )|
Comanche 4 – DirectX 8
Novalogic’s Comanche 4 benchmark test gives the edge to the Pentium 4. As a flight sim, it’s more CPU-bound than our previous tests, we’ve also found in previous CPU reviews that it tends to perform best on the Pentium 4. We see a 6% gap between the Pentium 4 3.06GHz and the Athlon XP 3000+, as well as the XP 3000+ and the XP 2700+.
SIDEBAR: AMD stands for Advanced Micro Devices
| Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo||Page:: ( 10 / 13 )|
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby – DirectX 8
Unreal Tournament 2003 Botmatch – DirectX 8
When we last compared the Athlon XP to the Pentium 4 (in our XP 2800+ preview) the results between both processors were too close to call. But with Barton’s larger L2 cache, it has clearly increased its lead. The 845PE-based Pentium 4 trails Athlon XP by 3%, while we saw a 7%+ performance improvement with the larger L2 cache.
SIDEBAR: Unreal 2 anyone?
| SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth||Page:: ( 11 / 13 )|
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth
SIDEBAR: We were told that VIA’s KT400A chipset was due to launch in late January, but apparently VIA needs more time to polish it.
| Ballistics Report||Page:: ( 12 / 13 )|
Barton core: With its larger 512K L2 cache, the Barton core brings a performance gain of approximately six percent clock-for-clock over the previous Thoroughbred Athlon XP processor core. In addition, processors utilizing AMD’s Barton core are in full production at AMD’s Fab 30 facility in Germany now so availability shouldn’t be as much of a problem as it has been in the past for AMD.
In short, if you’re in the market for a new AMD processor, you should take a serious look at any processor based on the Barton core. You’ll get better performance, and you shouldn’t have to jump through too many hoops to find one.
Performance: While AMD has scaled the clock frequency of the Athlon XP 3000+ back slightly to 2.167GHz, the processor still performs faster than any previous product AMD has released. The end result is a processor that is more than capable of keeping up with the latest from Intel, which means you’ll have plenty of horsepower for today’s latest games and software applications.
Seamless upgrade: AMD’s Socket A infrastructure has stood up well over the past few years, the Barton core continues that tradition. As long as your motherboard supports its 333MHz bus, you should be okay. All end users need to do is update their BIOS to properly identify the Athlon XP 3000+ processor. There is no need to purchase a new motherboard if you already own a KT333 (or greater) or nForce2 motherboard.
Price: With its $588 official list price, the Athlon XP 3000+ is by no means an inexpensive processor upgrade -- it costs nearly as much as the nearest equivalent from Intel. If you’re looking for a processor that offers a little more bang for your buck, you might want to look into one of the slower Barton-based Athlon XP processors.
SIDEBAR: Looking over AMD’s codenames, it seems they’re shifting from horses to cities.
| Final Verdict||Page:: ( 13 / 13 )|