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This way, it turned out that the expected announcement of Athlon 64 pushed Intel to speed up its Pentium 4 processors, however, the change in AMD’s plans put the today’s Athlon XP on Barton core in a very difficult situation: they will have to compete with an enhanced Pentium 4. In this case, AMD has to follow into Intel’s footsteps and to resort to all sorts of tricks to increase its processors’ performance without increasing the core clock frequency, because it has almost reached the possible maximum. The easiest way to do this without redesigning the Athlon XP processor core is to raise the bus frequency. This will be exactly the move AMD is going to make within this month.

According to our info, the next Athlon XP 3200+ processor will work at 2.2GHz and will use 400MHz bus. This CPU will compete with Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz with 800MHz bus and Hyper-Threading technology, which is due a little bit later. Besides Athlon XP 3200+, there will be one more processor to support 400MHz bus – Athlon XP 3000+. This CPU will work at the actual frequency of 2.1GHz, according to our preliminary data, which is 66MHz lower than Athlon XP 3000+ with 333MHz bus.

The transition of Socket A processors to 400MHz bus will allow using the DDR400 SDRAM more efficiently. This memory type has already been approved by Intel. So, as soon as Socket A systems acquire 400MHz bus support, it will also be used with them in synchronous mode, which will improve the performance. Since DDR400 SDRAM has already become pretty widely spread, the transition of Athlon XP to faster 400MHz bus is absolutely justified. Moreover, the constant improvement of memory production technologies allow the today’s DDR400 modules to work stably with quite aggressive timings, which are at least not worse than those of the average DDR333 SDRAM modules.

For example, Corsair Company, whose memory modules are truly considered to be among the best, is already shipping DDR400 modules working stably with 2-2-2-6 timings at 400MHz.


Corsair CMX256A-3200LL: one of the best DDR400
memory modules today.

Corsair Company provided their TWINX512-3200LL memory modules set for us to test the mainboards based on nForce2 Ultra 400 with 400MHz bus. This set including two 256MB DDR400 SDRAM modules, which were preliminarily tested in dual-channel configurations, does work well at 400MHz with 2-2-2-6 timings and 2.6V Vdimm in the mainboards based on the new nForce2 stepping. We should also stress that these low timings are a great achievement for 400MHz working frequency. For example, we saw in our previous tests that even PC3700 memory modules, which can work at 450MHz, can run stably at 400MHz only with 2-3-3-6 timings.


The use of high-speed DDR400 modules provides
an additional performance boost.

This way, everything seems to be ready for Athlon XP processors to finally move to 400MHz bus. The chipsets and mainboards supporting Athlon XP on Barton core with 400MHz bus as well as high-speed memory modules are already available. Now there is only one thing everybody is waiting for: AMD should announce Athlon XP 3200+ and Athlon XP 3000+ for 400MHz bus.

 
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