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Table Of Contents  CertiGuide to A+ (Core Hardware)
 9  Chapter 0010:  CPUs

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VII  AMD CPUs

If you're wondering who AMD is for CPUs, refer back to the picture with the Suntac chipset (Figure 24) and notice the manufacturer of the CPU for this 80286 running at 10Mhz. Why, its AMD. Yes they have quietly been in the game for a long time.

For an answer to the Pentium, AMD launched the K5. It was pin for pin compatible with a socket for the Intel Pentium. The K5 was like the Pentium, in that it does not contain MMX instructions. When Intel released the MMX version of Pentium, AMD released the K-6, a dual-volate CPU with 3DNow (3DNow is actually SIMD licensed from Intel), to answer Intel. AMD offered almost OK performance at a lower price point than Intel.

Intel successfully shut down the pin-for-pin competitive front by dreaming up Slot 1, and placing a patent on the design. AMD kept the less expensive socket mounting of the CPU and extended socket 7 with Super Socket 7, taking the K6 to speeds of 500 MHz.

However, after a time, the laws of physics caught up with AMD. To extend beyond 500Mhz, they had to resort to a SEC design as well, and did so, creating Slot A. This was the connector design for the Athlon.

Slot A

Athlon uses a Slot A form factor.


AMD didn't like the expense of being SEC or "cartridge based" any more than Intel. So as soon as AMD could they went back to a socket based CPU. Socket 462 carries the second generation Athlon CPUs, now split into price or performance solutions. They are known as the Thunderbird and the Duron. Due to the price/performance ratio of this line up, AMD has been gaining market share.

[spacer]The Duron is Low-End?

With the Athlon now a family name, the Duron is set to compete with the Celeron, on price. The performance of a Duron is typically better than a Celeron, and closer to the P-III line, overall.


SMP Without Sharing

The AMD line up is impressive, matching the low-end at a lower price and in with the Athlon MP/XP CPU's, SMP CPU's with no shared front side bus! This future SMP market for AMD could cause some pain for Intel. Intel shares a single 'pipe' for multiple CPUs. AMD Thunderbird system boards have a 'pipe' for EACH processor. Remember due to design differences a 400 W power supply on a heavily loaded PC with an Athlon should be a consideration. The Athlon series uses more power and creates more heat than Intel.


And more is not always more. The value of SMP depends on the software you are using. Perhaps by 2010 it will be cheaper to run several CPU's than attempt to jam more processing power in one chip. In large part, that will require support from the O/S folks.

[spacer]Thunderbird verses Duron

The terms, low-end and high-end are to some extent, quite clear. Virtually every subscriber to Maximum PC would be more interested in a Thunderbird than a Duron. Generally a 'standard' office worker would be quite delighted with a 700 MHz Duron with 256 Megs of ram. As of this writing, the Duron 700 MHz is low-end compared to what could be purchased. With the exception of use for graphics, Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) or serious 3D games, the Duron or comparable Celeron is great. Even in a Graphic User Interface (GUI) such as Windows, just how fast can a person type? 200 word a minute? The trick is to watch pricing, and what do most of the users need. Standardization in an office saves on parts costs, down time, and political envy.


[spacer]K-8 named Operon

Operon sets the stage for another mega battle with Intel. This is a 64-bit CPU that is fully backwards compatible with O/S (Operating Systems) that are set for 32-bit (Linux, NT4, W2K, XP). As this A+ release goes through final stages before being called a 'wrap and print', Microsoft announced it is throwing full support to Operon which means as least some real soon now O/S releases from MS will really shine taking full advantage of what the latest CPU from AMD will bring.



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