The AMD Athlon XP 2100+ processor

Friday, March 15, 2002

Once again, AMD has released an update of its ever-popular Athlon XP CPU - the seventh such upgrade to-date. This time, its the Athlon XP 2100+ that's being added to the line-up, and it's clocking-in at 1733MHz. This mild increase in frequency might actually seem a bit funny to some users. After all, the 200MHz bumps of the Pentium 4 do make the XP 2100+'s 66MHz look a bit puny in comparison. At their current respective rates of increase, we may even expect to see the P4 hit 3GHz before the Athlon XP reaches 2GHz.


Still, even with that in mind, it's obvious that clock-frequency isn't the sole deciding factor in system performance. If it was, the P4 would have crushed the XP in the marketplace long ago. In reality, the number of instructions a CPU can actually complete per cycle (expressed as "IPC") is just as important as the number of cycles it goes through in a second. The Pentium 4, with its ultra-long hyperpipeline, is able to achieve astronomic clock frequencies, but at the price of lower IPC performance. The Athlon XP, on the other hand, goes through fewer cycles per second, but manages to get more work done on each pass -- 9 instructions per cycle, as opposed to the P4's 6 -- giving it a 150% advantage in IPC.

Together, these two points - frequency, and IPC - make comparing the two CPU families very interesting.

That being said, it is important to note that the Athlon XP 2100+ doesn't bring anything particularly new to the able. Asides from the obvious bump in clock-frequency (and the decision to return the XP to the familiar green color of yore), it is identical to its immediate predecessors, all of which use the 0.18 micron "Palomino" core. From a thermal standpoint, the XP 2100+ is even compatible with AMD's most recent heatsinks -- it has all the familiar characteristics of the XP 2000+, which makes heatsink replacement unnecessary for existing XP owners/upgraders.

Of particular interest to many users, though, is AMD's notes regarding the 2100+'s CPU core: it does not use the 0.13 micron "Thoroughbred" core, as some may have expected. According to recent AMD announcements, "Thoroughbred"-based chips shouldn't be expected before the end of the month.

Of course, after reading all this, one may begin to wonder if the new XP's fairly minor performance boost is really enough to secure its position as a performance champ. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we're here for, and is precisely what we'll be testing today.

To that end, we compared several different systems, in order to determine relative performance abilities.

Those systems include the Athlon XP 2100+, the Athlon XP 2000+, the Intel Pentium 4 "Northwood" 2.2GHz, and the 2GHz Pentium 4 "Willamet".

For more complete information concerning the AMD Athlon XP's internal microarchitecture, we suggest reading our review of the Athlon XP 1800+.

Two final notes worth mentioning: the Athlon XP 2100+ will be immediately available in OEM systems from Compaq, Fujitsu-Siemens, and NEC-CI. The XP 2100+ will be also be arriving to market alongside two siblings -- the Athlon MP 2100+, and the AMD Athlon 4 1600+ (mobile).

The introductory price of the Athlon XP 2100+ is $420US is quantities of 1Ku.


Next: Test setup.