AMD Thunderbird is go

AMD's Thunderbird, which debuts in the US next week, features an integrated level-2 memory cache, a design trick that buys more performance at no cost to the customer.

Systems powered by the Thunderbird, a catchy code name that AMD is changing to "Athlon with performance-enhancing cache memory," will initially be in short supply.

Both AMD and Intel have taken to launching chips weeks before PC makers are ready to build systems with the new chips in significant quantities.

Nevertheless, the new systems should be worth the wait. Initial PC World tests on a new 800-MHz Athlon system suggest that the new chips indeed offer more processing power for your money. Our exclusive tests of business performance show that an enhanced Athlon-based system running at 800 MHz is comparable to a 1-GHz system powered by the original Athlon. And the 800-MHz Thunderbird system was just as fast as the 800-MHz Pentium III-based systems we've tested in the past. As more systems ship with the new Athlons, tests will become more conclusive.

What makes Thunderbird fly? It's the on-chip L2 cache. The original Athlon chips offered 512KB of L2 cache - but cache off the chip, meaning it ran at just one-half to one-third of the chip's clock speed, depending on the particular processor. The new Athlon chip's 256KB of L2 cache is integrated into the processor, so the memory runs at full speed. Intel's Pentium III CPU has had on-die, full-speed L2 cache since last October. Now AMD is catching up.

CyberMax and Gateway are offering systems with the new Athlons immediately. Compaq will announce in coming weeks Presario systems that use the new chips. Hewlett-Packard will support the processors in Pavilion systems this summer.

AMD is launching the new processor in six speeds: 750 MHz, 800 MHz, 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 950 MHz, and 1 GHz. Initial quantities are limited but will increase quickly, says Michael Steele, director of AMD's commercial segment marketing.

Athlon CPU pricing will be unchanged, Steele says. So, for example, an 800-MHz system with the new CPU should cost about the same as one with the old version.

The on-die L2 cache will enable even larger performance gains down the road, says Steele. The company expects to ship an Athlon running faster than 1 GHz before the end of the year.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Mainelli

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?