AMD Athlon XP 3200+ Review – Part 2

by Bubba “MasterFung” Wolford

 

Pricing Considerations

AMD Athlon XPAMD has been long since a favorite of gamers who wanted a fast computer with great performance but unwilling to pay the premium for Intel based processors. Even during the early Pentium 4 days when AMD was clearly outperforming Intel, AMD parts were always cheaper than Intel’s comparable CPUs. The new AMD Athlon XP 3200+ processor is selling for $449 on price watch. Intel’s 3GHz CPU (800MHz FSB) and 3.06GHz CPU (533MHz FSB) are selling for $414 and $337 respectively. Given that AMD is claming their chip should be faster than both, this pricing falls in line with the expected performance gains from AMD’s 3200+ CPU.
Our AMD test system had the following components installed:

  • AMD Athlon XP 3200+ (2.20GHz)
  • 400MHz Front-Side Bus
  • 512MB of PC3200 CAS2 DDR (2 x 256MB)
  • ASUS nForce2 Motherboard
  • ATI Radeon 9700 PRO 128MB
  • Catalyst 3.2 drivers
  • Sound Blaster 128 PCI
  • 3Com 10/100 NIC
  • Seagate Barracuda 120GB 7200 RPM ATA-133
  • Sony 52X CDROM
  • Newly installed Windows XP PRO with Service Pack 1
  • Microsoft Mouse PS2
  • Microsoft Force Feedback 2 Joystick

Our Intel test system had the following components installed:

  • Pentium 4 3.0GHz (HyperThreading ENABLED)
  • 800MHz Front-Side Bus
  • 512MB of PC3200 CAS2 DDR (2 x 256MB)
  • P875 “Canterwood” Motherboard
  • ATI Radeon 9700 PRO 128MB
  • Catalyst 3.2 drivers
  • Sound Blaster 128 PCI
  • 3Com 10/100 NIC
  • Seagate Barracuda 120GB 7200 RPM ATA-133
  • Sony 52X CDROM
  • Newly installed Windows XP PRO with Service Pack 1
  • Microsoft Mouse PS2
  • Microsoft Force Feedback 2 Joystick

 

Synthetic Benchmarks

  • FutureMark’s 3DMark2003
  • Sysmark 2002
  • SiSoft Sandra 2003 SP1
  • PCMark2002
  • Main Concept 1.3
  • ScienceMark
  • CodeCreatures Pro

FutureMark’s 3DMark2003

AMD Athlon XP 3200+
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz
3D Mark 1024 x 768
3D Mark 1600 x 1200

Sysmark 2002

AMD Athlon XP 3200+
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz
Sysmark 2002 Sysmark 2002 fix

SiSoft Sandra 2003 SP1

AMD Athlon XP 3200+
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz
SiSoft Cache Bench
SiSoft CPU Bench
SiSoft Memory Bench
SiSoft MMX Bench
SiSoft System Summary

PCMark2002

AMD Athlon XP 3200+
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz
PCMark 2002

Main Concept 1.3 (Lower time is faster)

AMD Athlon XP 3200+
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz
Main Concept

ScienceMark (click on linked text)

CodeCreatures Pro

AMD Athlon XP 3200+
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz
Code Creatures AMD

Games

  • Falcon 4.0 SP3
  • IL-2: Forgotten Battles OpenGL and Direct 3D
  • Ghost Recon Patch: English Patch
  • Comanche 4 Patch: Demo Benchmark
  • FS2002 Patch: Fresh install only
1024 x 768
1600 x 1200
Falcon 4.0 SP3
53 / 57
53 / 53
IL-2: Forgotten Battles OpenGL
43 / 80
26 / 50
Comanche 4 Patch: Demo Benchmark
54.78 / 61.56
53.30 / 58.17
FS2002 Patch: Fresh install only
34 / 37
34 / 37

Benchmark scores

Well, it starts off tough for AMD and finishes tough too. I don’t see a single score that AMD wins in the benchmarks against Intel’s ‘slower’ 3GHz Pentium 4. When looking at 3DMark 2003, focus on the CPU tests. The others are more video intense. SysMark 2002 and PCMark 2002 are dominated by Intel. The scores are not close. AMD has two SysMark 2002 scores. The left-hand score is without using their ‘patch’ that enables 3DNow! PRO instructions (SSE). The right-hand score is with the patch installed. A small increase in performance but nothing that touches Intel’s 3GHz monster.

AMD’s woes continue through Main Concept where Intel is faster to convert the file (lower time is faster). The trend is the same through the other synthetic scores.

The game scores are a bit closer in some of the benchmarks and in others, Intel is again dominate. Falcon 4 is close with a small Intel win. IL2 is being dominated by Intel. Comanche 4 is close but still Intel is ahead by at least 10%.

Conclusion

AMD is struggling to stay up with Intel right now. For the first time, we have a Performance Rating controversy that is an inversion of what we have had in the past. AMD has been doing a great job of matching their performance ratings with Intel’s parts so the performance numbers are at least close to each other. Sadly, the PR ratings do not bode well for AMD this time around.

Not only does the 3200+ have trouble keeping up with the new 3GHz Pentium 4 (800MHz FSB) but in my testing, some scores were worse for AMD when compared to the 3.06 Pentium 4 on a 533MHz FSB. What also hits hard on AMD is that they are now the more expensive part, with lower performance. Looking at the numbers and analyzing them, it would take quite a jump in PR to catch up to where Intel sits today.

AMD desperately needs movement in the MHz category as the FSB jump did little to push their performance further along. The good news is that AMD is closing in on ClawHammer which will mean a rejuvination of the AMD line of products and might return the performance crown. Moving to 64-bit won’t do it alone so let’s hope AMD gets the MHz cranked up.

The bad news for AMD is numerous. Intel’s 3.20GHz part is coming. This AMD’s 3200+ is already struggling versus Intel’s established CPUs. Intel’s has the first ever .09-micron part coming out this year in Prescott. Prescott will have 1MB of L2 cache. Fortunately for AMD, so will ClawHammer. These two cores should make for a very interesting battle with AMD having a shot at taking the CPU lead. We know they will have one advantage as being the first to 64-bit on the desktop.

For now, AMD has not been able to take the performance crown from Intel and Intel has now taken the price/performance crown from AMD. Intel is ‘owning’.

With Intel’s 3.2GHz CPU coming down the pipe soon, AMD’s position is going to slip even further. If there are any delays in ClawHammer, the CPU wars could get very ugly — quick.

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