The processor world used to be only Intel, now there is another contender, AMD (Advanced Micro Devices). A couple years ago when AMD first made its way into the scene there were many incompatibility problems with AMD processors and programs. However due to changes in the design these incompatibility problems no longer plague the AMD line of processors. But it is a known fact that an AMD equivalent of any Intel processor is about 30 to 50 MHz slower than the Intel counterpart. Up until recently AMD has had a boost in speed, that Intel has lacked, in certain games due to 3DNOW!, a SIMD (Single Instruction Multiple Data) technology. But with Intel’s new line of processors named Pentium III they now have their own SIMD, KNI (Katmai New Instruction). AMD’s line of processors used to be able to keep up with Intel using 3DNOW but with KNI Intel will once again take a very large lead in speed. Thus I believe Intel builds better and faster processors than AMD.
The first ever problems AMD had were with incompatibility problems that plagued their entire line of CPU’s until the K6. These problems hurt AMD because nobody wanted a CPU that could not run 15% of the programs out. People wanted a processor that had programs optimized specifically for it, people wanted a computer with a sticker that said “Intel Inside” because they knew every program would run on it. If people wanted a cheap solution then they went with the low-cost AMD CPU and faced incompatibility problems with a lot of programs. But most people were willing to spend the money to get the genuine Intel processor and this is a major reason AMD became the underdog and left Intel to reign as King.
One point that people paid much attention to was 3D graphics, and the PII, with it’s superior FPU (Floating-Point Unit), could easily outperform the K6 processor in 3D applications. The FPU on all current AMD chips is sub-par and costs what could be a very fast chip a major performance hit. Without losing a large amount of performance due to the poorly designed FPU the K6-3 is actually a very nice processor. Ever since the days of the 286 Intel has had the processor that performed the best and had no compatibility problems which made it the choice of almost everyone. Since most people buying a computer were buying an Intel processor instead of an AMD Intel became the major supplier in the consumer market.
Realizing that their K6 was falling behind in FPU performance, AMD toddled along back to the drawing board to tweak the K6 in order to support a new 3D API (Application Program Interface) called 3DNow! that would dramatically improve 3D performance in what was to become the K6-2 CPU. But unfortunately for AMD, they couldn’t convince many software developers to include support 3DNow! Because of this, there was only a limited number of games and graphics cards that 3DNow!, and the K6-2 was not as successful as the Intel Celerons, though the K6-2 did offer strong business performance.
AMD has always been stuck with the low-end market and that is where they have taken Intel’s market-share. But Intel wants it back, they introduced the Celeron line of CPU’s around August of last year. The Celeron go off to a bad start because it originally shipped without any cache and thus earned a bad reputation. However Intel realized very quickly the mistake they made and added 128k (kilobytes) of cache to the chips and dubbed them Celeron A. This chip, the Celeron A, soon became the overclocker’s dream chip and probably became the most popular CPU in 1998, even though it hit the market in the second half of the year. To be more specific the most overclockable, running the specified chip above the manufacturers indicated operating frequency, was the 300 MHz model, the Celeron 300A. The Celeron 300A was easily overclocked to 450 MHz with about an 85% success rate and about 10% of the chips made 500 MHz. While the Celeron was out selling like no other, due to the low prices Intel was setting and its overclockability, AMD was pushing its 3DNOW! technology hoping to have it widely supported before Intel released its Pentium III with KNI instructions. They did a fairly good job in getting 3DNOW! supported but only time will tell if they have enough support because Intel has lots of sway in the personal computer market and if needed I am sure they would use it to promote KNI.
While AMD does indeed make good processors, which will satisfy even the hard-core gamer, they are still about 30 to 50 MHz slower than the Intel counterpart. There are many AMD advocates that will argue this but it has been proven many times in the reviews of processors ranging from the days of the 486 up to present days with the K6-3 an the Pentium III. Several years ago with the 486 AMD came in about 50 MHz slower but now they have caught up some and are about 30 MHz slower, while this is an improvement it is not enough to even compete with Intel. This poses a large problem for AMD since they rely heavily in the low-end PC market, which Intel is trying to take back over with the Celeron. Often the Celeron could be found cheaper than the K6-2, which was its main competitor, and since the Celeron performed better in most cases people once again wanted Intel. Part of the reason the Celeron’s were so cheap is because, while AMD poses no threat to Intel, Intel wants to rid themselves of AMD and can afford to lose money on the Celeron’s but AMD being so small cannot take a loss. If Intel keeps up price cutting their Celeron line of processors throughout 1999 then AMD will have no choice but to close up shop and say goodbye. Unlike Intel AMD does not have the resources to spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns or lose money on a line of processors, their just to small.
Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration is KNI. The Pentium III takes a lead over the K6-3 when 3DNOW! is enabled but when KNI is optimized Intel will once again be the true leader among the PC market. It is predicted that KNI will give the Pentium III a 20% gain, which will leave AMD in the dust once again. The only problem this poses is that companies may not support KNI right away, it may take several months for support to be added to video card drivers and games. If this is the case then the K6-3 is starting to sound a little better, but not much. I have a feeling that the almighty Intel will push KNI to get games and video card drivers optimized, especially since they have the resources to do so. If KNI is not optimized then Intel better hope that it is before they release their next generation chip dubbed “Coppermine”. This chip is the one to wait for though, it will use the new ultra fast Rambus RAM (Random Access Memory). When this chip appears, July/August, everyone will once again wonder who AMD is and want a nice little sticker on their computer saying “Intel Inside”.
Did you ever wonder why Intel bothered coming up with the “Intel Inside” sticker? Well its because everyone knew that every piece of software ever written has been compatible with an Intel CPU, there have been a lot of software that has had issues with the AMD line of CPU’s. Why is this? Well AMD uses a slightly different structure when building their chips, and that is what causes the problems. Had AMD not had these problems then I am sure that they would not be stuck in the low-end market dying for one more percentage of the market. But instead they would be competing with Intel in all forms of the PC market. Because of this I believe Intel builds better and faster CPU’s than AMD.