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AMD's Athlon XP 2100+ processor

Palomino rides again

AMD IS RELEASING its latest speed grade of the Athlon XP processor today, so it's time once again to run the latest Athlons and Pentium 4s through the benchmark wringer in order to see who's fastest. Last time around, we found the Athlon XP 2000+ and the Pentium 4 "Northwood" 2.2GHz in a virtual tie. Intel's beefed-up P4 made great strides in the performance race, and the Athlon XP 2000+ was just barely able to keep pace.

So the Athlon XP 2100+ is set to climb to the top of the heap for x86 performance, right? Well, perhaps, but it has a few strikes against it. For one, the Athlon XP remains on the same 266MHz front-side bus as ever, and it's made using AMD's now-familiar 180-nanometer fabrication process. There are questions about how well the Athlon XP will scale as AMD ratchets up the clock speed independent of other improvements.

Plus, I really need to find a way to make this review interesting, so why not bring it up? Anyhow, we'll benchmark this puppy and find out.

Introducing the Athlon XP 2100+
The first thing you need to know about the Athlon XP 2100+ is that it runs at 1.73GHz. Thanks to AMD's handy-dandy naming scheme, the clock speed is different from the model number for a host of reasons we've already discussed at length.

You'll probably forget about the first thing you need to know, though, once you see how the Athlon XP 2100+ looks:

Left: The Athlon XP 2000+ clad in brown. Right: The Athlon XP 2100+ in a stylish green.

Yep, it's minty green. AMD says it's changing its processors to match its company color. However, we all know AMD always has Intel on its mind, and I'm sure it didn't hurt that the new color makes this CPU look an awful lot like some Intel products. Whatever the case, AMD is transitioning all of its chips with organic packaging (currently only the Athon XP and Athlon MP) to this new paint job. The change is purely cosmetic, so don't expect big performance gains—unless you think "extra minty goodness" is worth a few more points in 3DMark.

For the photo fetishists out there, here's a bigger picture of the chip.

A closer look at the 2100+

As you can probably make out, the L1 bridges on the XP 2100+ are indeed severed, with gigantic miniature pits between the two sides. It's possible to bridge the gap and unlock the multiplier on the Athlon XP to allow free range in overclocking, but it ain't easy.

Beyond that, this is the same old Athlon XP as ever. Based on AMD's Palomino core, it'll ride atop a whole host of different Socket A motherboards out there. Please see our recent KT333 review and Socket A chipset roundup to get a sense of the many good options available.