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AMD's Athlon XP 2800+ and NVIDIA's nForce2

...with NVIDIA's nForce2 chipset and a 333MHz bus
— 7:00 AM on October 1, 2002

TODAY we get the chance to give you a preview of some very interesting products coming down the pike from AMD and NVIDIA. This is a somewhat unique opportunity. Both products are noteworthy for their performance, and they make a very potent combination together. However, this particular combination of parts won't be widely available for some time yet.

AMD's last desktop processor launch was the Athlon XP 2600+, and those chips are only just now becoming available to PC manufacturers. End-user versions of the 2600+ probably won't be widely available for a few weeks, based on everything I've heard. It may take even longer than that.

Similarly, NVIDIA announced its nForce2 core-logic chipset in mid-July (we wrote up a technology preview at the time), and the company promised retail product availability in August. The month of August came and went, and no products showed up. We didn't hear a peep out of NVIDIA about nForce2's schedule, but the fact of the product delay was obvious.

Now, AMD and NVIDIA are teaming up to introduce the combination of the Athlon XP 2800+ processor and the nForce2 chipset. AMD is taking a novel approach to this product launch, making Athlon XP 2700+ and 2800+ chips available through certain PC makers as "a limited edition gaming microprocessor." Those systems should be available "in November", which pretty much means the end of that month. The 2800+ won't be available on retail until next year.

NVIDIA says the nForce2 really, really is coming soon now, too. Now that I've waited as long as I have, I'm going to adopt the consummate Missourian's stance on this one: I'll believe it when I see it.

But I have played with the preproduction versions of AMD's Athlon XP 2800+ and Asus's nForce2 motherboard, and they are both quite nice. The Athlon XP 2800+ runs at 2.25GHz on a 333MHz bus, and the nForce2 feeds it data from dual banks of DDR333 memory. The combination is as nearly as potent as my Kansas City Chiefs' offense. Read on to find out why.

The press test kit: Athlon XP 2800+ on a pre-production Asus nForce2 mobo

Leveraging proactive synergies for a win-win result. Cough.
The Athlon XP 2800+ is (along with the 2700+) the first Athlon to support a 333MHz front-side bus, which is a welcome development to AMD fans who have been clamoring for a faster bus for some time now. There's just something about getting beaten by the Pentium 4 and its fancy-pants 533MHz bus in every bandwidth-intensive benchmark everywhere that makes a faster bus sound like a good idea. We toyed around with raising an Athlon XP's bus from 266MHz to 333MHz a few months ago, and we liked the promise of a faster bus paired up with a faster Athlon XP.

The 2.25GHz Athlon XP 2800+ is fed by NVIDIA's nForce2 "system platform processor" (north bridge), which talks to dual banks of DDR333 memory. We'll talk more about NVIDIA's chipset in a few pages, because we're going to focus on the CPU side of things first by comparing the Athlon XP 2800+ to its Pentium 4 competition. However, you should note that nForce2's memory controller combines dual memory banks, data pre-fetching, and caching in order to improve memory access performance. You'll want to keep that in mind as you see the benchmark scores.