AMD’s new 0.13-micron Athlon XP/2200+ delivers very good performance results. Only when faced with SSE2-optimised software and multimedia applications such as video and audio encoding programs does the Athlon XP give way to Intel’s Pentium 4. When running other applications (games, Internet) the AMD chip is either faster than or tied with the Pentium 4. Although Intel has a clear performance advantage with the new 533MHz-bus Pentium 4 in combination with PC1066 Rambus memory, PCs built around these components will be expensive. Equipped with the more common DDR266 memory, the 2.53GHz Pentium 4/2533 will not always match the performance of an Athlon XP/2200+. However, more and more software producers are optimising their programs for Intel’s flagship CPU. Our performance tests with Lightwave 7b and the DivX compression with XMpeg show just how much can be achieved with P4-optimised software. Here, the Pentium 4 has a clear performance advantage over the Athlon XP -- no matter which type of memory is used. AMD processors, on the other hand, enjoy an extremely attractive price/performance ratio. The 2.53GHz Pentium 4 costs at $637 (when bought in 1,000-unit quantities), which is more than double what you‘ll pay for an Athlon XP/2200+ ($241). Furthermore, PC1066 Rambus memory is nearly three times as expensive as DDR333 memory.
The bottom line
In the long term, the Athlon XP cannot keep up with the Pentium 4. Intel is increasing the clock speed on the Pentium 4 faster than AMD can with the Athlon XP. In the second half of this year AMD will release an Athlon XP with 512KB of Level 2 cache, codenamed Barton. However, the company does not plan to increase the Athlon's frontside bus to 166MHz -- which seems appropriate given the advent of DDR333 memory. AMD should remain competitive with the Barton processor until the end of the year. After that, the Hammer chip is set to take over the pursuit of the Pentium 4.