Basically, the Duron 1.2 GHz is a core speed increase to an existing design and shows some nice improvements in many benchmarks. While comparisons between the Duron and Athlon are a foregone conclusion, it's still nice to see in which areas the Duron has made up the most ground. The most telling statement concerning Duron 1.2 GHz performance is that this is the first Duron processor that actually feels quick enough to be suitable for mid-range or higher-end 3D gaming configurations. That is great news for budget-minded gamers and we can hardly wait to see if further core speed increases are in the cards for the Duron.
Duron 1.1 GHz Overclocking
Due to its newer core revision, we were anxious to test out the overclocking potential of the Duron 1.2 GHz, but we tempered this with the lukewarm performance of previous Duron models sporting the Morgan core. Our review processor was locked, but a quick application of the old "pencil trick" easily unlocked it. We should note that the Duron does not share the extreme "pitted bridges" measures that AMD has taken with the Athlon XP, and other than an extra L1 bridge, the new Duron layout is virtually the same as the older versions.
We started off our testing at 1.25 GHz and hit the mark no problem at default voltages. When attempting to move higher to 1.3 GHz, the system locked hard and even a core voltage of 1.875V couldn't budge it. It would boot like a dream at 1.25 GHz, but anything higher seemed to be out of reach on our reference systems. This was a bit disappointing, as we had hoped that this core revision would be the one to take the Duron to 1.4 GHz sometime down the line.
Adding insult to injury are certain system BIOS options that limit the higher clock multipliers to even numbers like 12X, 13X and 14X. This makes taking the Duron 1.2 GHz to higher clock multiples an even rougher task, and may reflect a matching of the Athlon 200 MHz chips which basically come in only even-numbered clock multipliers above 1 GHz. The Athlon XP also has a current limit of 12x133 MHz for the high-end 1900+ model, so there seems to be little impetus for some manufacturers to provide the in-between multipliers. This only refers to certain AMD motherboards and even these models may be fixed with a future BIOS update.
Note: As with all CPU overclocking, you pay your money and you take your chances, and the above overclocking results should not be taken as indicative of any other CPU that the one reviewed and tested herein.
Overboard on the Core Voltage?
AMD's choice of increasing the default voltage for their newer Duron processors is an interesting one. The first Duron (up to 950 MHz) required 1.6V as default; but when moving to the Morgan core, AMD upped this to an Athlon-like 1.75V. In our previous Duron 1 and 1.1 GHz reviews, we found that these processors could easily run at 1.6V and ran much cooler at the lower voltages.
In the case of the Duron 1.2 GHz, we didn't really expect the same results and were surprised when the CPU booted easily at 1.6V. We ran several benchmark tests and the processor was rock solid and running at approximately 36-37 degrees Celsius after a full load. This compared to the 40-41 degrees Celsius core heat of the Duron 1.2 GHz at 1.75V.
Whether the goal is the Duron and its 1.75V default voltage is standardization between the Duron and Athlon XP lines or simply to give AMD a bit of headroom for future core speed increases, our review processors did not require this level of voltage to run. As with the overclocking results, you may find differences between processors, but even lowering the voltage a few steps may result in an overall cooler running PC.