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Last revised:
09/08/1999

AMD Athlon/550 vs. Intel Pentium III/550 Performance
AMD Athlon/550 vs. Pentium III/550 Performance
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AMD Athlon logo On August 1999, it seems AMD have finally surpassed Intel in desktop processor performance. AMD's seventh generation x86 processor, Athlon (the CPU formerly known as K7), is their latest weapon against the Intel Pentium III processor. AMD have been very successfully in the sub $1,000 PC market with their low-end K6-2 processor. But Intel is slowing turning the tide with their Celeron processor, which gives better performance and value. In order for AMD to survive, it must take the battle to the desktop and server market, where Intel have a virtual monopoly.

Before going into the actual benchmarking figures, let's take a quick look at both processor's main features:

Features Athlon Pentium III
System Bus Speed 200MHz 100MHz
L1 Cache 128K 64K
L2 Cache 512K 512K
L2 Cache Speed 1/2 CPU 1/2 CPU
Multimedia 3D Now! SSE
Processor Interface Slot A Slot 1

Just from the features above, the Athlon beats the Pentium III in terms of system bus speed and the amount of L1 cache. But will that be enough for the Athlon to outperform the Pentium III in overall system performance? Let's find out.

Because the Athlon requires a slot A system board, and the Pentium III uses a slot 1 motherboard, it is necessary to use different motherboard for each processor. In such a case, we're not strictly comparing AMD processor against Intel processor; the overall design of the motherboard also comes into play. To minimize the impact of testing two different motherboards, the components and drivers will be the same for both systems. Here's a quick rundown on each system:

Components Athlon System Pentium III System
Motherboard MSI 6167 ver. 1 MSI 6116
Chipset AMD 75X Intel 440BX
Memory 128MB PC100 128MB PC100
BIOS Version Award version 1.1B8 - 08/19/1999 Award version 2.2 - 02/25/1999
HDD Quantum Fireball 8.4GB ATA66 Quantum Fireball 8.4GB ATA66 *
Video ATI Rage 128
98SE - version CD6.11
NT - version 4.3.24
ATI Rage 128
98SE - version CD6.11
NT - version 4.3.24
Operating Systems Windows 98SE and NT 4.0 Workstation SP5 Windows 98SE and NT 4.0 Workstation SP5

* Important note: the Intel 440BX AGPset IDE controller only supports ATA33, while the AMD 75X chipset supports up to ATA66.

Ziff-Davis Winstone 99 measures overall system performance by running through a series of commonly used business and engineering applications. Higher number means better performance.

Winstone 99 Highend/NT @ 32 bit

We see here that the Athlon beats the Pentium III by 0.7 points in Windows NT. But keep in mind that for the scale of Winstone 99, 1.0 point does represents a significant margin.

Winstone 99 Business/98SE @ 32 bit

For Windows 98SE, the numbers are roughly the same: the Athlon managed to edge out the Pentium III by 1.1 points.

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