Based on AMD's 0.25-micron technology, the Athlon is the most advanced x86 processor and also the first x86 processor to hit the 700MHz mark (although Intel has since released a 733MHz Pentium III). It features an improved floating point unit which is fully pipe-lined, as well as an on-die 128KB L1 cache, a programmable L2 cache and a 200MHz system bus, all of which help to push data through the CPU at a faster rate than ever before.
Although the system only made a brief stay in our Test Centre, we put it through some gruelling 2D and 3D sessions and also compared the performance increase between previous versions of Athlon processors.
The system utilised AMD's 750 chipset and came configured with a 32MB Diamond Viper V770 Ultra graphics adapter, 128MB of PC100 SDRAM, an 18GB Western Digital ATA66 hard drive, a 6x Toshiba DVD drive, a SoundBlaster Live Value sound card and an Ethernet adapter. The processor was cooled with a large heatsink and a dual fan assembly, while there were also two case fans controlling the air flow, one located at the front and one at the rear of the machine.
All tests were conducted under Windows 98 and as usual we tested 2D performance using our PC WorldBench benchmark suite, while 3D performance was gauged with Futuremarks 3DMark 99 Max along with a selection of OpenGL and Direct3D-based games.
Upon the initial power up of the test system we found ourselves waiting an annoyingly long time for the computer to boot up, but once inside the Windows 98 environment waiting no longer became an issue! The system was scarily quick in its response to our commands, while application installation and loading times were noticeably faster than usual. The machine attained a score of 285 in PC WorldBench, approximately 7 per cent higher than the 266 which was earned by the 600MHz version of the Athlon - a new record for systems running Windows 98.
In 3DMark 99 Max the 700MHz Athlon scored 10 per cent higher CPU 3D Marks than the 600MHz processor (13623 as opposed to 12385), and scored a blistering 7173 3D Marks, also a new record.
The 700MHz Athlon is approximately 11 per cent faster in PC WorldBench than the fastest Pentium III 600 system we have tested (the Gateway Performance 600), and in 3DMark 99 Max, it is almost 35 per cent faster.
We conducted some frame rate tests using Quake II and KingPin, which are both OpenGL-based games, and tested at resolutions of 1024 x 768, 1280 x 960 and 1600 x 1200 on a 19in Mitsubishi Diamond View monitor using the Diamond Viper's hardware acceleration. In Quake II we obtained results of 69.7fps, 47.9fps and 29.8fps, respectively, while in KingPin we received 61.9fps, 44.2fps and 28fps. Under-taking the same frame rate tests with the 600MHz and 550MHz versions of the Athlon, we obtained only fractional differences, indicating that a top-notch graphics adapter is a must, no matter how fast your CPU is.
Our Direct3D-based tests were conducted with TOCA2, Re-Volt and Powerslide, and what better way to gauge gaming performance is there than actually heading on track for a few laps! All games ran silky smooth for long periods of time, without even a hint of stuttering.
Our test results indicate the AMD Athlon 700 is unquestionably the fastest processor we've reviewed in both the 2D and 3D world. It should definitely be considered the current CPU of choice for the speed freak.
Although AMD has always priced its CPUs at very competitive levels, the 700MHz Athlon costs a fair few dollars, so if you need the great performance but don't want to break the bank, then a 550 or 600MHz Athlon should do the trick nicely.
AMD Athlon 700
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