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      AMD Athlon XP 2600+ Review

     
     Date: December 11th, 2002
     Type: Review
     Supplier: AMD
     Author: mayhem
     RRP: $685 AUS (inc GST)

    Introductions
    With enthusiasts waiting patiently for AMD to release their 2.0 GHz+ chips this year, the new XP 2400+ (2.0 GHz) and XP 2600+ (2.133 GHz) have made a big impression on the market being the first of the AMD line to reach 2GHz at standard clock frequency. AMD has found new power in the Thoroughbred core with the move to 0.13u (seen first in the XP 2200+) and look to make good headway towards the 3.0 GHz barrier recently achieved with Intel's Pentium 4 processors, but it hasn't been without problems.

    With Intel making great progress with their 0.13u process switch, namely with the Pentium 4 Northwood processor receiving massive percentage overclocks and a general willingness for the CPU's to go high from day one. Intel have followed through with this and the 0.13u Pentium 4's have scaled excellently and we can see this as they have just reached the 3.0 GHz mark.

    The initial Thoroughbred chip, namely the XP 2200+, just didn't seem to be able to handle anything more than the 2GHz mark with overclocking and basically seemed to have hit a wall, this didn't look good for AMD's new line of processors. But this is what makes the new Thoroughbred so interesting, AMD have been able to improve their initial designs and add a few changes that allow the chips to run faster and cooler yet using the same voltage, with only a slightly larger core using more transistors.

    So lets get stuck into it to find out what the XP 2600+ has to offer and more importantly, how it performs.

    Features
    The main advantage of the XP 2400+ and the XP 2600+ is the previously mentioned 0.13u process used to create the chips, allowing them to run faster and cooler than previous chips that used the 0.18u process, but this is not the only advantage, here is some official information regarding the new chip:

    Key Architectural Features of the AMD Athlon™ XP Processor:

    • QuantiSpeed™ Architecture for enhanced performance
    • Nine-issue superpipelined, superscalar x86 processor microarchitecture designed for high performance
    • Multiple parallel x86 instruction decoders
    • Three out-of-order, superscalar, fully pipelined floating point execution units, which execute x87 (floating point), MMX™ and 3DNow!™ instructions
    • Three out-of-order, superscalar, pipelined integer units
    • Three out-of-order, superscalar, pipelined address calculation units
    • 72-entry instruction control unit
    • Advanced hardware data prefetch
    • Exclusive and speculative Translation Look-aside Buffers
    • Advanced dynamic branch prediction

    3DNow!™ Professional technology for leading-edge 3D operation:

    • 21 original 3DNow!™ instructions—the first technology enabling superscalar SIMD
    • 19 additional instructions to enable improved integer math calculations for speech or video encoding and improved data movement for Internet plug-ins and other streaming applications
    • 5 DSP instructions to improve soft modem, soft ADSL, Dolby Digital surround sound, and MP3 applications
    • 52 SSE instructions with SIMD integer and floating point additions offer excellent compatibility with Intel's SSE technology
    • Compatible with Windows® XP, Windows 98, Windows 95, and Windows NT® 4.x operating systems

    266MHz AMD Athlon™ XP processor system bus enables excellent system bandwidth for data movement-intensive applications:

    • Source synchronous clocking (clock forwarding) technology
    • Support for 8-bit ECC for data bus integrity
    • Peak data rate of 2.1GB/s
    • Multiprocessing support: point-to-point topology, with number of processors in SMP systems determined by chipset implementation
    • Support for 24 outstanding transactions per processor

    Other Architectural Elements:

    • The AMD Athlon™ XP processor with performance-enhancing cache memory features 64K instruction and 64K data cache for a total of 128K L1 cache.  256K of integrated, on-chip L2 cache for a total of 384K full-speed, on-chip cache.
    • Socket A infrastructure designs are based on high-performance platforms and are supported by a full line of optimized infrastructure solutions (chipsets, motherboards, BIOS). Available in Pin Grid Array (PGA) for mounting in a socketed infrastructure Electrical interface compatible with 266MHz AMD Athlon XP system buses, based on Alpha EV6™ bus protocol
    • Die size: approximately 37.6 million transistors on 84mm2. Manufactured using AMD's state-of-the-art 0.13-micron copper process technology.

    Overclocking
    As with most AMD CPU's these days, its hard to find anyone running them at stock clock frequencies. The easiest and most popular way of overclocking is via the Front Side Bus (FSB) which can easily be increased from 133 FSB to 140 FSB on most AMD systems without any problems or risk of damage to the CPU as you don't need to increase the voltage.

    Since the release of the XP 2200+ many people have been worried that the Thoroughbred core just couldn't handle high overclock speeds with many sites reporting a max overclock from 1.8 GHz to 1.92 GHz (which is roughly only a 6.5% increase using 142 FSB). I can tell you this now, the XP 2600+ doesn't suffer from this, and here is why:

    "AMD continually strives to deliver the performance customers want. AMD has successfully implemented a process change for the "Thoroughbred" processor core that involved adding an additional layer of metal to reduce resistance and capacitance. AMD has also engineered additional decoupling capacitors to reduce electro magnetic interference. Finally, AMD always takes an active approach to rebalance and improve speed paths throughout the processor core design."

    We were able to stabily run the XP 2600+ with a FSB of 145 MHz (although 3D Mark did cause some problems, but normal gameplay didn't reveal any instabilities) which using the locked 16x multiplier gave us a clock speed of 2320 MHz, now that is nice. In order to get the system running stabily at 145 MHz Front Side Bus the CPU voltage had to be increased from 1.65 volts to 1.75 volts It will be interesting to see the XP 2600+ unlocked, giving the ability to run 15x multiplier and 166 FSB (15x166=2490Mhz) without affecting the timings for any AGP or PCI expansion cards you have. This of course could lead to 2.5 GHz and beyond overclocks with more and more people using extreme cooling techniques such as water cooling etc.

    For the most 100% stable results we used 142 FSB, this was a rather nice overclock using the standard cooler, but was a bit disappointing since some other reviews using the same spec equipment were able to run 150 FSB We must point out here that the memory we received seemed to be causing some problems, unfortunately we were unable to use replacement memory during our testing.

    Above is the AMD XP 2600+ at standard FSB.

    Above is the AMD XP 2600+ overclocked running 145 FSB. Below is the resulting speed in MHz.

    NEXT: Testing / Benchmarking

     

      Supplier Information

     

    AMD is a global supplier of integrated circuits for the personal and networked computer and communications markets. If you would like more information on the company then please visit there site: www.amd.com.

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