Such was our thinking until recently, when AMD quietly shipped us an Athlon XP 2600+ processor for review. This baby runs at 2.13GHz, a full 333MHz faster than the previous top-of-the-line model, the 2200+. It seems AMD has done a little tweaking to the T-bred, and suddenly, they've found a little extra speed. There will be a 2400+ version of the Athlon XP that runs at an even 2GHz, as well.
So did the AMD processor gnomes just turn the dial to "more magic" or what? AMD says they've added another metal layer and some additional capacitors to the T-bred in order to provide a more favorable electrical environment. Not only that, but they have modified certain pathways in the chip in order to help it run better at high clock speeds. At least, I think that's what happened. AMD's official line is: "AMD always takes an active approach to rebalance and improve speed paths throughout the processor core design."
So after a quick colonic, the Athlon XP is more regular than ever.
Now the question is: Can higher clock speeds alone help the Athlon XP compete with the Pentium 4, or will the Athlon's relatively slow 266MHz front-side bus hold it back? We've already explored the benefits of a 333MHz front-side bus on the Athlon XP, and honestly, we were a little underwhelmed. Maybe a good clock speed boost is all this puppy needs.
Of course, we're about to find out. We've got a revamped suite of processor testsnearly every app we use has a new version, and we've added a few new wrinkles, as well. Naturally, we're comparing the Athlon XP 2600+ against its predecessors and against its toughest competition from Intel. Read on to see if AMD really is back in the game.