An Updated Thoroughbred Core

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As I mentioned on the previous page, the Athlon processors have been falling behind the Pentium 4 processors in most of the benchmarks. With the coming release of the Hammer processors, AMD definitely wants the word on the street to be that AMD is the king of the performance processors so that it will be easier to pitch the new 64-bit technology to users and businesses.

The first release of the Thoroughbred core, found in the Athlon XP 2200+ processor, was the first step in the process of coming back on Intel. Giving the processor a lower process, .13 micron, would allow the core to use less power and thus make it cooler and therefore easier to achieve higher clock speeds. However, the new processor core would not take as high of frequencies as AMD would have hoped. The majority of the Athlon XP 2200+ processors available are very limited in their overclockability (which is a good judge of growth potential for a core). A few were able to push the 1.8 GHz Athlon up above 2.1 GHz (including myself) and even less beyond that. Obviously kinks were in need of being worked out, and that was what AMD was doing in the meantime.

Very little on the Athlon XP Thoroughbred core has changed. In fact, to the naked eye, everything is identical – there has been only a minor die size increase (down to 84mm^2) and none of the packaging was required to be changed either. Dubbed as “Rev B” by the folks at AMD, the core of the 2400+ and 2600+ processors has an additional layer of metal (now at 9 instead of 8) that is used to reduce the resistance and capacitance of the transistors. In effect, the additional layer on the “Rev B” core was engineered to give the core more room to “breathe.” And, while the AMD team had the Thoroughbred on the operating table, they took the time to reduce magnetic interference by moving capacitors and also rebalanced and improved paths through the processor for speed. But, don’t expect any kind of noticeable change in the IPC (Instructions Per Clock).

AMD Athlon XP 2600+ Processor Review - Processors 25
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What is most amazing though is what this fairly minor change to the core has allowed AMD to accomplish since the release of the Athlon XP 2200+ processor in June. The just announced Athlon XP 2400+ processor runs at a 2.0 GHz clock speed and the Athlon XP 2600+ processor runs at 2.13 GHz, a startling increase in clock speed compared to results we were having with most of the original Thoroughbred cores. Also, while attending Quakecon 2002, I can finally say with 100% assuredness that AMD will be migrating their next processor to a 166/333 MHz front-side bus. This fact is again showing how much more the latest core revision was able to do for AMD and their confidence. The Athlon XP 2800+ processors will be the first to debut this new FSB speeds, probably in the 2.24 GHz range.

The next question we had, and that you may have, is just how far will this “Rev B” core take AMD in the realm of the Athlon XP processors? Because they are increasing the system bus, this means that AMD will be able to raise the clock speed of the processors with lower multiplier, which are currently at 16x with the 2600+. With that additional headroom as well as the ability to bring the voltage up safely, the newer will definitely be around for some time. Of course, the only real way to test out the life of the core is try and overclock it.

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