Review Index:

AMD Athlon XP 2700+ (333 MHz FSB) Processor Review

Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD


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Yes, it is finally here. Rumors of the 333 MHz FSB processors have been abounding for months and during that time all that AMD would say publicly was “we are looking into it.” Well, they were obviously doing much more than that. AMD is today announcing the release of the Athlon XP 2700+ (running at 2.17 GHz) and the Athlon XP 2800+ (running at 2.25 GHz).

The Athlon XP 2700+ processor, pictured below, is the first processor from AMD to support a 166/333 MHz DDR front side bus. The 2800+ processor, also announced today, uses this same 333 MHz bus, but wasn’t available to me quite yet. As you are no doubt familiar with, the previous Athlon processors all used a 133/266 MHz FSB all the way up to their 2600+ processor released last month. AMD, seeing a need for increased performance on their processors with Intel screaming ahead, started the development and testing of this new processor some time ago. Even here, in my news post from July 30th, I had information on the increased bus that was surprisingly very accurate.

From these pictures, you can see that the only external difference on the new 2700+ from the 2600+ processor is in the identification markings. In this pictures you can see that the ID codes on the 2700+ (and 2800+) end in a ‘D’ indicating a 333 MHz FSB. The processors that arrived here were also multiplier locked in the same fashion that the 2600+ was. While that is disappointing to some degree, it isn’t surprising.

Both current major chipset vendor, VIA and NVIDIA, are already prepared for this venture into the AMD world and both have chipsets that are officially supporting the 333 MHz FSB – the VIA KT400 and the NVIDIA nForce2 chipsets. Many KT333 chipset motherboards that supported the Thoroughbreds before are said to be able to run the new 333 MHz chips, but may not get official backing from the manufacturer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test the 2700+ on many boards because of a flaw in our pre-production samples thermal diode.

Why did AMD feel it was necessary to go ahead and push the Athlon XP’s FSB up now? In all reality, this is probably a move that should have been made earlier in AMD’s line of processors. If you paid attention during the rise of the DDR333 chipsets, like the VIA KT333 you’ll notice that the performance enhancements on going from DDR266 to DDR333 were very minimal and sometimes not even noticeable. This same drawback occurred with the latest introduction of DDR400 chipsets (official or not) like the nForce2 and KT400. The gain in moving up the ladder again was almost nothing, and in some of our tests DDR400 was actually slower than a well-configured DDR333 setup. This was all because the bus on the processor had not changed from the DDR266 standard as introduced with the 1.33 GHz Athlon Thunderbird.

To combat the bandwidth limitations in the systems the front-side bus is now being increased to 333 MHz. What is most interesting to note is that this gives the move from DDR266 to DDR333 memory a much-needed increase, but the results for DDR400 are only increased a small percentage – much like DDR333’s initial introduction. It is possible that by moving up to a synchronous bus speed with DDR400 memory (200/400 MHz DDR) the new memory might see a significant gain.