AMD Athlon Chip Set Rivals Intels Technology

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2001-07-16

With the release last month of the Athlon MP processor and accompanying 760 MP chip set, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has positioned itself to challenge Intel Corp. in the X86-based server and workstation market.

However, although eWeek Labs tests indicate that the Athlon MP is a technologically able rival to Intels newest Pentium 4-based Xeon processors, AMD now faces perhaps as great a challenge in convincing workstation and server players such as Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and IBM to build systems around the Athlon MP processors.

The service contracts and application vendor relationships that workstation makers provide are prized almost as highly as the hardware that drives the systems, and an Athlon MP-based workstation from a major OEM would allow AMD to better compete with Intel in the enterprise space.

For our tests, we looked at the Poly ServerStation 890 from Polywell Computers Inc. Built around the 760 MP chip set, the ServerStation 890 is the first workstation weve seen that supports Athlon MP processors in dual-chip configurations.

The ServerStation 890 that we tested shipped with two Athlon MP processors, each of which ran at 1.2GHz. The chip is also available in a 1GHz version.

The test system was outfitted with a 36GB Ultra-160 ATA 10,000-rpm hard drive, an NVidia Corp. GeForce 3 graphics card and Windows 2000 Service Pack 1. The system also featured 512MB of double-data-rate SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), which, as its name suggests, delivers up to twice the data rate of standard SDRAM by supporting data transfer on both edges of each clock cycle.

As configured, the ServerStation was priced at $3,750, compared with $5,624 for the similarly configured, dual-1.7GHz Xeon processor-based Dell Precision 530 that we reviewed in May (for a review of the Precision 530, go to

Difference is in the cards

In tests with standard performance Evaluation Corp.s APC Pro/Engineer 2000i2 benchmark, which gauges workstation performance running Pro/E mechanical CAD software, the ServerStation turned in a composite score of 2.41—compared with a 3.70 score for the Precision 530.

However, the Dell box we tested shipped with a high-end Wildcat II 5110 graphics card from 3D Labs Inc., which was much better suited for CAD tasks than the GeForce 3 card in the ServerStation. For a better comparison, we swapped a GeForce 3 card into the Precision 530, with which the workstation scored 2.61 on the Pro/E benchmark—a mark more closely in line with the ServerStations 2.41.

In tests using Ziff Davis Media Inc.s Content Creation Winstone 2001 benchmark, which tests performance on applications such as Adobe Systems Inc.s Premiere 5.1 and Macromedia Inc.s Director 8.0, the ServerStation scored 74.2, topping the 69.5 that the Precision 530 system with the GeForce 3 graphics card scored.

The ServerStations higher Content Creation Winstone score is likely due in part to the faster SCSI hard drive with which the system ships (compared with the EIDE drive in the Precision 530).

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