Pricey Athlon? Athlon XP 3200+

AMD has released the latest in its line of Athlon XP processors, the 3200+, which is built on the same Barton core as the previous high-end flagship, the 3000+. Improvements over the 3000+ chip are in the areas of clock speed and front side bus (FSB) speed.

The clock speed has been increased marginally from 2.16GHz to 2.2GHz, a difference of around 40MHz over the 3000+ model, but AMD hopes the 400MHz FSB of the 3200+ chip will boost its performance in everyday applications and multimedia functions. In comparison, the 3000+ chip had a 333MHz FSB.

This new 400MHz FSB provides im­-proved bandwidth of up to 6.4GB between the CPU and the memory controller when using a dual-channel memory configuration. A 512KB Level 2 memory cache size helps bolster the performance of the CPU when repetitive tasks are being undertaken, and this is the same as the 3000+ chip.

For testing, AMD sent us a kit comprising an Athlon XP 3200+, an ASUS nForce2 chipset-based motherboard and two pieces of 256MB, PC3200 specification Corsair DDR SDRAM (set up in a dual-channel configuration). We tested with a parallel ATA configuration using a Western Digital Caviar WD 1200 Special Edition hard drive, with SYSMark 2001, 3DMark 2001 and Quake III, to see how well it could keep up with Intel's current top-of-the-line 3GHz (800MHz FSB) Pentium 4.

The results were encouraging for users who want high-end desktop performance: it was approximately 4 per cent faster during productivity testing than the Athlon XP 3000+ on the same platform.

Surprisingly, the touted prices we saw for this chip are almost $100 more than Intel's top CPU for the mainstream consumer market, the 3GHz Pentium 4 with 800MHz FSB, but we were unable to get official pricing before press time. Given the volatility of the component market, you should expect to see lower prices than that listed in 'In brief' by the time you read this.

Compared to an equivalent top-of-the-line platform from Intel using the 3GHz 800FSB chip, the 3200+ will provide almost equal performance in a dual-channel memory and non-RAID configuration.

Physically, the chip retains the 462-pin form factor of previous Athlon chips and should work without problems on recently-released Athlon-based motherboards that can accommodate a stable 400MHz FSB, such as those based on nForce2 or VIA KT400A chipsets. As usual, check your motherboard vendor's Web site for details on whether your board will support this CPU, should you decide to upgrade.

However, the very small increase in performance over its predecessor, and the premium price, suggest this model will not be worth the asking price.

In brief: AMD Athlon XP 3200+
With a faster FSB speed than its predecessor, the Athlon XP 3200+ provides a slight performance boost in productivity and 3D applications, but its price appears to be very steep.
Price: $890
Vendor: AMD
URL: www.amd.com

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