The big announcement of 2002 had to be the Pentium 4 Northwood. This enhancement of the basic Pentium 4 core to 0.13-micron, and upgrade of the internal cache from 256K to 512K, was a coup and really helped Intel push CPU sales. The chip giant also used their power in the chipset arena to launch highly successful i845-based platforms, along with the powerful dual-channel DDR AGP 8X, E7205 chipset, which basically supercedes the venerable i850E to the sidelines. All of these pieces fell into place nicely, and helped create a varied line-up for potential Intel buyers.
AMD also moved to the 0.13-micron process for the Athlon XP Thoroughbred core, but took a different strategy and initially maintained the processor's 256K L2 cache, with the promise of a 512K version later. AMD also didn't sit idly by in the platform area, and have been helped immensely by the presence of the NVIDIA nForce2 chipset, which offers AGP 8X and dual channel DDR400, and is the basic power configuration for AMD enthusiasts. This dual-pronged approach, along with the upcoming release of the Opteron and Athlon 64 Hammer-based CPUs, has created a great deal of anticipation for the upcoming crop of AMD processors.
One part of the equation has arrived in the form of the Athlon XP Barton, which sports 512K of L2 cache and hopes to take it to Intel in the high-end desktop area. With the 0.13-micron die and dual DDR nForce2 already in place, the Barton is the final piece of the current desktop puzzle, and puts AMD on virtually equal ground with Intel's CPU and platform line-up. The Barton also helps AMD bridge the gap between the Athlon XP Thoroughbred and the upcoming Hammer-based processors, instead of just letting Intel run loose in the interim.
One part of the Athlon XP 3000+ announcement will make power users happy, and that's the near-immediate availability of the new processor. Previously, AMD got a few black eyes for releasing processors, but making end users wait for the chips to actually hit the streets. This should not be the case this time, and many online retailers have the Athlon XP 3000+ ready for sale.
In this review, we'll explain the architectural enhancements AMD has performed with the Barton core, along with taking the Athlon XP Barton 3000+ through our usual round of game and application benchmarking. The Barton core represents an interesting addition to AMD's desktop line, and this will give us a good indication of how the specifications and performance stack up to not only Intel's crop of high-end processors, but the current Athlon XP selection as well. The burning question remains whether the AMD Athlon XP Barton 3000+ can create the same level of excitement as the Pentium 4 Northwood.