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Review: AMD Athlon 1.33GHz ['Thunderbird' core]

by David Ross on 26 April 2001, 00:00


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AMD TBird 1.33GHz

In the last 18 months we have seen a lot of movement in the Processor market

In the last 18 months we have seen a lot of movement in the Processor market, with AMD being more competitive than Intel in price, performance and value. The latest core architecture by AMD is the Thunderbird, which is soon to be superceded by the Palomino. This Thunderbird core has had 2 main breeds to it, the standard and the DDR. The major differences between the 2 are that the standard runs on a mere 200MHz bus, and the DDR runs at 266. With the cut bus speeds there is a drop in multiplier too.

AMD’s Athlon range was released in direct competition to Intel’s Pentium 4. Or should we say that the Intel Pentium 4 should have been the AMD beater which never came to light. The Pentium 4 still shows potential, but it appears that Intel needs to reorganise its pricing structure, which they seem to have planned for the end of April.

When selling CPUs there are 2 main markets, the end-user who is mainstream and after a performance platform, and then the big OEMs who will order big but also at a cut price. AMD have already managed to dominate the primary sector for the past 18 months, and they look like they are breaking the OEMS away from Intel and building up this sector too. AMD still have the vision to sell to the value market; this is just like they had on the K6-X range of CPU. But this isn’t a bad thing: their competitive pricing structure, high speed CPUs at lower-than-others pricing is something which is highly regarded within the Industry. Meaning if I told you 3 years ago you could get a GHz for under £60 would you believe me? (AMD Duron Overclocked.)

Currently the AMD CPU range have 2 main memory buses. Firstly there is the DDR platform, which until around a week ago was not viable due to the higher prices (the performance wasn’t worth the increase in the cost dept.) The second type is the SDRam, which comes in 1 main flavour PC133. These 2 platforms are strong in there own ways.

PC133 is an excellent platform especially when it is integrated and run on the KT133A motherboard where we have managed to hit bus speeds of around 155 and higher. This is an exceptional chipset which is currently keeping SDRam very strongly positioned on the market.

DDR is a new platform. It has a major advantage of being able to read on the rise and the fall of the clock. A DDR 133 Bus (PC2100) is equal to that of 266 due to the "double" reading upon the clock.

There are 2 core breeds of AMD CPUs, the B and the C. The C is the DDR version, which is designed to run at this higher clock speed with the lower multiplier. The C version is an AMD Athlon that uses the 266MHz EVA bus. This can run on any motherboard KT133A and DDR compliant platforms.

This AMD 1.33 DDR CPU is a high speed, low cost solution. It is now far superior price to performance than any Intel CPU currently on the market, but this might change soon......

Image is clickable.

The only issues which AMD really have at the moment with the Thunderbird core is the high running temperature of the unit. The Core itself is a very strong and powerful architecture, but the high speed means that it in turn runs very hot. This is soon to be updated by the Palomino. The palomino is the new core, which has been developed not to need any fans running on the actual heat sink unit.

So why did AMD decide to release 2 CPUs, well the fact that the lift of the NDA was actually on the same day as the first day of CeBIT might have just been a coincidence, or maybe not ;)

There are 2 main DDR platforms which were out at the time. The ALi MAGiK 1 solution and the AMD760. Since then we have seen a lot about the VIA KT266, which was also being pushed at CeBIT.

The other solution, which is being run by a lot of users there (including myself) is the KT133A chipset. The KT133A Chipset is an update on the KT133 chipset; it is more mature and has been developed to deliver high front side bus and also high overall clock speed.

AMD decided to release 2 units, the 1.3 and 1.33 GHz, the 1.3 runs on the '100MHz' bus (B Class) and the 1.33 runs on the '133MHz' bus (C Class).

Tech Specs

Core - ThunderBird
Clock Speeds :- 750 - 1333MHz - Any More soon?
L1 Cache - 128KB
L2 Cache - 256KB
Speed of Cache - Same as Core
Cache Bus - 64 Bit
Interface - Socket 462 (Socket-A)
Microns - 0.18
Transistors - 37 Million

On a side note SiS are apparently working on a high speed chipset the 735 which is in Taiwan at the moment and it is currently smoking every other chipset on the market. We should see this appear around the end of May / start of June.

The Core (Ed. Nice Pun) differences between the Duron and the Thunderbird are the L2 cache which is on die on both CPUs, are at different sizes, the Thunderbird has 256K of L2 cache, whilst the Duron only has 64K.

AMD Testing System : -
Mobo - IWill KT133A Motherboard
Graphics Card - Asus Geforce Pure 64MB
Memory - 256MB Crucial PC133 Cas 2 RAM
Cooling - GlobalWin WBK38
HD - 18GB Quantum Atlas 10K II
CD/DVD - Teac 32X CD ROM
Sound - SB Live 1024
Network - Intel Pro 100 Management

Intel Testing System :-
Mobo - Abit VP6 / Asus P3V4X for Celerons 2s
Graphics Card - Asus Geforce Pure 64MB
Memory - 256MB Crucial PC133 Cas 2 RAM
Cooling - GlobalWin WBK38
HD - 18GB Quantum Atlas 10K II
Sound - Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Network - 10/100 3Com Management Card.


As you can see in the FPU results the 1.33Ghz DDR Module lead by an outstanding 100 points about the other processors, it beat every other processor on the table hands down.

In winbench again the aim is to have a higher score, this software is for hardcore processor usage, as you can see they are all fairly close to one another but the 1.33 ghz thunderbird has a considerable lead over the other cpus, which means that it is a power house for any users.

Again we see the 1.33 leading the edge here, all the performance which we have already seen is shown again, this CPU is again beating the other processors easily. Do AMD really need to launch a Palomino if they already have this unit beating the market apart? Perhaps not but they will to get more speed, and it will probably annoy Intel - just a smidgen ;)

In our final tests we used 3DMark 2000, the reason for not using 2001 is that we believe that 3DMark shows more graphics card need than CPU, but the CPU does have an impact. And as a lot of you readers know what your system will get under 2000 then it seems best to stick to it ;) And as we can see the TBird 1.33 Clears the round in this program too.

As you can see from the results it is a very strong platform AMD have here in place, and it means that they don't need to launch anything at the moment, the heat dissipation from this unit is fairly high that is why there is a need for a Palomino.

Summary and Conclusion.

So what would I do if I were out looking for a new system? Well at the moment I would probably grab a KT133A Motherboard, a couple of sticks of high speed ram, and a Thunderbird based CPU, clock it up and have a high speed performance system.

AMD have yet again proved the strength of the Thunderbird CPU. The P3 is dead now, the Celeron II (Ed. What’s a Celeron 2? :o)) is also non-existent upon the CPU market. With the release of the 133 parts by AMD they yet again stamp down their position on the market. AMD also are dedicated to supporting the "older" platforms by releasing the 100MHz bus unit.

Are we saying to ditch your current set-up for this new CPU? Well no, if your currently running at anything above 800 there is no real reason to even think about upgrading. Most users out there will already be running AMD breed CPUs due to cost and performance levels. Some of you will be running the P3 set-ups, you shouldn’t instantly throw your system away and upgrade, but the inevitable upgrade path will probably involve an AMD set-up in some way.

If you are on a Budget, then why not check out the Duron 900 review

What do we see as the future of the market? Well with the Foster supposedly just around the corner from Intel, there might be a light in the tunnel for Intel and be their saving grace. But, it might not: it has been shown that Intel still don’t have a good platform for the Pentium 4, which I believe is currently holding them back. The CPU itself isn’t that bad, it has a lot of future features which will probably be needed. But with Intel saying 'no' to VIA about the creation of a DDR platform for the P4, we can honestly say that Intel need to do something special. Even with the price cuts, which are planned for the end of the month, RamBUS will still be the holding-back feature. If you need to upgrade and you don’t want to invest in a Thunderbird you should look at a cheap Duron solution until Intel decide to check their options. We should see the release of the Palomino in the next 2 months, but we still do not know what this will mean for the market. The CPU itself is SMP compliant, it also needs no active cooling for the core, and could be an Intel crusher, not a beater!

AMD are still actively pricing their CPUS and will probably do a major price cut when Intel do at the end of the month. The 1GHz CPU seems to be a viable option for everyone on the market at the moment. Recently AMD has managed to produce some very special 1GHz units, denoted by the AXIA coding. These have been hitting 1.4/5 out of the box without changing anything special. Meaning paying £150 for a 1.5GHz CPU? Sounds like a good opportunity to me. This AMD 1.33 Unit, which we had, would do just over 1.5 with standard voltage and cooling.

Do we see this as the last Thunderbird Core? Well, in respect of what we just said AMD could release some 1.5 GHz Units very quickly. This means that they could put back the Palomino and then wait on it until they need to release it. Only time will tell................