The Technology Route

The Athlon family

Beginning with the 0.25-micron K7 core, AMD’s Athlon evolved slowly to the
0.18-mircon K75, and most recently to the 256 kB on-die L2 cache-equipped
Thunderbird. AMD is currently shipping at speeds of up to 1.2 GHz in variations
supporting both 200 and 266 MHz front-side bus with plans to continue releasing
Athlon processors based on the Thunderbird core right up to 1.5 GHz. However,
the company plans to stop the Thunderbird buck at this speed and move on to
Palomino.

Palomino: Like the Thunderbird before it, Palomino will be manufactured on a
0.18-micron process with 256 KB of on-die level 2 cache. According to AMD, the
Palomino will be a re-worked Thunderbird core optimized for minimal power
consumption–about 20 to 30% less power than a comparably clocked Thunderbird.
Once the Palomino runs out of headroom, the next horse, the Throughbred, will
escape from the barn.

Thoroughbred: Not much is known about the fifth generation core in the Athlon
family other than that it will be the first processor from AMD on a 130 nm
manufacturing process. For the time being, AMD estimates sampling will begin in
Q4 2001 with production to commence during the Q1 of 2002.

The Duron family

The overclocking community has come to appreciate AMD’s Duron just as much
as the performance market has enjoyed the Athlon. It is not uncommon to hear of
a 700 MHz Duron CPU surpassing the GHz barrier, making it one of the best values
for a gamer on a budget. The fact that the Duron has beat Intel’s Celeron
clock for clock makes it that much sweeter for the company.

Unfortunately, Duron owners have been given only one choice for a supporting
platform–VIA’s KT133 chipset. While it remains to be seen whether or not
OEMs will embrace VIA’s new KM133 chipset, it cannot be denied that the cost
of the performance-oriented KT133 has hurt OEM sales of the Duron. Nevertheless,
AMD is determined to see the Duron succeed in all facets of the industry. Hence
the planned move towards better versions.

Morgan and Appaloosa: Codenamed Morgan, this new core will feature the same
specifications as the current Duron but with the same power consumption
optimizations that is expected of Palomino. While AMD initially estimates to
begin shipping Morgan at around 800 MHz by Q2 of 2001, it also has plans to roll
out a value line ranging from 900 MHz-1 GHz in the H2 of the year.

Just as AMD is planning to shrink the Athlon core, the Duron will also be
moved to 130 nm during H1 of 2002. While not much detail is available about the
new core other, experts believe that it would consume less power and is likely
to be more scalable. The name for this fifth generation Duron core will be
Appaloosa.

The Hammer family

AMD’s eighth generation core is scheduled for a mid-2002 debut. According
to reports, the ‘pipeline will support aggressive clock speed scaling’, so
we should expect a deeper pipeline than the current K7 family, similar to what
Intel has implemented with the Pentium 4. The new Hammer family will have two
variants–ClawHammer and SledgeHammer.

Since AMD plans to sample ClawHammer around the same time as Thoroughbred,
experts assume it to debut at 0.13-micron. Interestingly enough, the company has
plans to limit the size of ClawHammer to a maximum of 100 square millimeters–smaller
than current K7 processors and about half the size of Intel’s Pentium 4.

DQ

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