When a close friend of mine at AMD called me up a couple weeks ago and informed me that the AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+ would be the last processor ‘speed bump’ that will clad the name ‘Athlon’, I had mixed emotions. For nearly a decade the word Athlon has been staple in the hearts and minds of computer enthusiasts around the world. The Athlon made its debut on June 23, 1999 and was originally chosen by AMD as it was short for “decathlon”. Athlon is also the ancient Greek word for “Champion/trophy of the games” and there was a number or years where it did top anything Intel had to offer and the AMD Athlon processor series proved itself worthy of its namesake. With the next generation of AMD Phenom processors right around the corner, it makes sense to call it quits, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce about the past.
When you think of the word Athlon what comes to mind? The second I think of the word Athlon it takes me back to the first Athlon XP processor I bought back in 2002 when I was a broke college student. I skipped lunches on campus to save money, so I could buy an Athlon XP 1600+. It took me weeks to find the right processor as I didn’t want just any Athlon XP 1600+ — I had to have the AGOIA stepping as it overclocked better than the other steppings back then. I remember calling Google Gear (later renamed Zip Zoom Fly after Google sent them a nasty legal letter) to purchase the processor as they would pick out the stepping you wanted if you got the right person on the phone. Once my processor arrived I remember going to Auto Zone and buying a rear window defogger repair kit and scotch tape, so I could unlock the multipliers since AMD started locking them. Then I sat down and unlocked the processor with my girlfriend of the time looking at me like I have finally lost it. You know what the funny thing is? I was so attached to that processor, I never did get rid of it.
My beloved AMD Athlon XP 1600+ AGOIA is still to this day in perfect working order and it reminds me of a time where people had to work for a decent overclock. Back in 2002 people had to use extreme measures to unlock processor multipliers and had to move jumpers on the motherboard in order to increase the Front Side Bus (FSB) speeds. Fast forward five years later and you have people complaining that a 25% overclock is not good enough for them! If they only knew what it was like prior to the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) boom that happened around the world in 2003 and the results were consumer friendly motherboards that were jumperless and the hardware was all plug-in-play.
After thinking about the end of the Athlon series it got me thinking, why not fire up several of the popular processors over the past several years on the motherboards that I have been saving?
Since I started Legit Reviews back in 2002, I gathered up processors from that time period on. While I wanted to include my Athlon XP 1600+ in the benchmarking tests, I ended up deciding against it since the Athlon XP 1800+ had higher sales numbers. The successor to the Athlon XP 1800+ was an easy choice as the Athlon XP 2500+ was by far the most popular ‘Barton’ core AMD ever had. While the AMD socket 754 platform never really took off in the enthusiast crowd an Athlon 64 3200+ with 1MB cache was included to give those with a socket 754 platform something to look at in the charts. Since the Athlon 64 3200+ is 2.2GHz and single-core it will also be nice to compare it against the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ as it is also 2.2GHz, but dual-core.
When it came to the Socket 939 platform, it was a tough call between the Athlon 64 3500+ and the Athlon 64 3800+, but in the end the Athlon 64 3800+ won the battle. The battle for the Socket AM2 platform was also a tough call as AMD introduced so many part numbers with a variety of cache sizes and clock speeds. The AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ was picked to represent this era as it was affordable and popular when it was available. The final processor to be included is the rare AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+ black box edition processor that was originally supposed to be available only to OEM’s, but now is seems online retailers have them in stock for $259.