AMD Processor History: An overview from the K5 to the Athlon XP

AMD Processor History: An overview from the K5 to the Athlon XP

1997: The debut of the K6

On April 2, 1997, AMD proudly announced that it had started shipping the K6 processor with MMX technology. It was now the sixth generation of the processor from AMD. The processor was manufactured in 0.35 µm, had a total of 8.8 million transistors and was commercially available with 166 MHz, 200 MHz and 233 MHz. The price of the 233 MHz model was US $ 469 when it was launched and would now be enough for the purchase of two Athlon XP 1.8+ processors. Like the competition from Intel, the processor did not have an internal L2 cache. This very fast buffer was still on the mainboard, mostly 256-512KB in size and could even be expanded in some cases. In contrast to the K5, the specified clock again corresponded to the actual clock.

Exactly on January 6, 1998, one day and four years before the Athlon XP 2000+ was introduced, AMD began shipping the K6 processors with 233 and 266 MHz, which were first manufactured in 0.25 µm. The processor's performance was generally good, but couldn't keep up with the Pentium II, which has since been introduced by Intel. At the end of January, Intel countered with the presentation of the, in contrast to its Pentium II predecessors with 233, 266 and 300 MHz, already in 0.25 µm and not like333 MHz fast Pentium II, previously manufactured in 0.35 µm. The price of this processor was a whopping 722 US dollars when 1,000 pieces were purchased. A good two months later, AMD followed suit with the K6 with a clock rate of 300 MHz. At $ 246, it was far less than half the price of an admittedly faster Pentium II processor. Although Intel caused quite a stir with the introduction of the Pentium II, the fastest Intel and AMD processors continued to run on a conservative 66 MHz front-side bus. However, this should change on April 15, 1998 with the introduction of the new Pentium II with Deschutes core. From then on, this was operated with a front-side bus of 100 MHz and was available with clock frequencies of 350, 400 and 450 MHz. On the same day, Intel gave the go-ahead for the Celeron processor with a clock rate of 266 MHz.

Modern applications demand more performance and functionality from PCs than ever before. The Pentium II processors with 350 and 400 MHz are delivered together with new, suitable technologies in order to meet the increasing demands on the system performance. The Intel 440BX AGPset supports the new P6 system bus with 100 MHz. Compared to today's 66 MHz system bus, this new data highway allows faster communication between the Pentium II processor with 350 or 400 MHz and the rest of the computer components, including the modern AGP graphics cards.

The Intel Celeron processor with 266 MHz for basic PCs was based on the same P6 microarchitecture as the Pentium II processor. This significantly improved the multimedia performance of basic PCs, if you compare the Intel Celeron processor with the Pentium processor with MMX technology.

When purchasing 1,000 pieces, the Pentium II processor with 400 MHz cost a whole 824 US dollars. The Intel CeleronProcessor with 266 MHz changed hands for 155 US dollars (also with the purchase of 1000 pieces). Intel pushed the fight for the processor inexorably and now, with the Celeron, has also fought in the low-cost segment previously dominated by AMD and Cyrix.

1998: The K6-2 with 3DNow!

AMD K6-2
AMD K6-2

To still remain competitive, the seventh design generation of its own processors was unveiled for the first time on October 13, 1998 at the Microprocessor Forum in California.

The Microsoft Windows compatible AMD-K7 processor with 3DNow technology offers seventh-generation design features that distinguish it from previous generations of PC processors. These innovations include a nine-issue superscalar micro architecture optimized for high clock frequency, a superscalar pipelined floating point unit, 128KB of on-chip level one (L1) cache, a programmable high-performance backside L2 cache interface, and a 200 MHz Alpha EV6-compatible system bus interface with support for scalable multiprocessing.

The processor was expected in the first half of 1999 with a clock frequency of 500 MHz and should, as later showed, initiate the triumphal march of AMD. But for now there should be a few more variants of the K6 processor.

On the next page: Spring 1999: Short guest performance of the K6 III