by October 2, 2000 0 comments

AMD’s latest offering is the Duron, an entry-levelprocessor for the price conscious. The K6-2, the earlier processor from AMD forpeople on a tight budget, was not very popular, both because of performanceissues and the fact that AMD had a low profile in the market at that time. AMDis now back in the entry-level processor market with the Duron, which ispositioned against the Celeron from Intel. In this article, we will compare theDuron with the K6-2. First we’ll take a look at the technological differencesbetween the two and then compare their performance.

Differences in technology

The K6-2 processorThemost obvious physical difference between the two is that they use differentsockets to fit onto the motherboard. The K6-2 uses the older Socket-7, while theDuron uses a newer socket called Socket-A or Socket 462. Also, the Duron has a128 kB L1 cache, whereas the K6-2 has half of that. The Duron also has a 64 kBL2 cache on the chip itself, unlike the K6-2 whose level 2 cache is off thechip. Since these caches are responsible for keeping the processor well fed withdata, their absence or reduced capacity affects performance.

The Duron also scored in the area of bus speed. Although bothprocessors are on a 100 MHz bus, the Duron can pump data at both the rising andfalling edges of the clock pulse, unlike the K6-2 that transfers data only onthe rising edge. This is why the Duron is sometimes said to have a 200 MHz FSB(Front Side Bus).

Another obvious advantage for the Duron is that it is basedon the K7 core. Compared to this, the K6-2 inherits its core from the older K6processor. The Duron also implements enhanced 3DNow! instructions. Theenhancements include new instructions for better integer math calculations forspeech or video encoding.

Differences in performance

Looking at the technological differences, it was apparentthat the Duron was going to walk away with the trophy. What we then wanted tosee was by how large a factor the Duron would do so. So we compared itsperformance with the K6-2.

The Duron ProcessorComparinga Duron and a K6-2 at the same clock speed is impossible, since the fastest K6-2has a lower clock speed than the slowest Duron (Remember that the K6-2s wererated not at their true clock speeds, but at the Intel performance equivalents(see the article “Identifying your Processor” page 84 in this issuefor more on this). We, therefore, tried out the most commonly available clockspeeds of the two chips: the Duron 700 MHz and the K6-2 500 MHz. As the magazinewas going to press, we received news that the Duron and the K6-2 have uppedtheir speeds to
750 MHz and 550 MHz respectively.

The benchmarks of our tests–Quake III Arena, Winbench99 andBusiness Winstone99–were the same as when we compared the Athlon and the PIII(see “Athlon or PIII”, page 171, PC Quest September 2000). We tried tokeep the setup as similar as possible (128 MB RAM, display card, hard disk), buthad to use different motherboards. However, we faced one problem. When settingup the K6-2 system, we faced repeated system halts after installing motherboarddrivers. So we downloaded the latest drivers from the Asus website and theirinstallation helped. We still had some issues with the AGP drivers as willbecome apparent from the Quake III results. We used an Asus P5A-B motherboardwith an ALi chipset.

So, what is our verdict on performance? As expected, theDuron performed way better than the K6-2. In Business Winstone99, the Duron got28 points as against 21.6 for the K6-2. In Winbench99, which specificallystresses the CPUs FPU (Floating Point Unit), the Duron scored 3810, more thantwice the K6-2’s 1660. This huge lead for the Duron was largely due to the K7core. In our processor tests (the CPU Mark), the Duron got a 59.1, in starkcontrast to
K6-2’s 28.4.

Tests on the Quake III Arena presented another shortcoming ofthe K6-2. It is normal for a system to give higher frame rates as you decreaseresolution. However, the K6-2 hit a ceiling of around 40 frames per second at1,024×768 resolution and did not increase any further even when we decreased theresolution all the way down to 640×480. All this while, the Duron impressed uswith frame rates very near to higher-end processors, the Athlon and the PIII.

The overall verdict is clear enough. The Duron scores overthe older K6-2 by a very wide margin.

Anuj Jain

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