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Linux Tutorial - The Computer Itself - The Central Processing Unit - AMD
  Intel Processors ---- Alpha Processors  


More than likely, you have seen the stickers on the front of computers saying "Intel Inside." As you might guess, this computer has an Intel processor. This sticker and the associated aide campaign is important for name recognition. For many people, the name Intel has become synonymous with CPUs for PCs.

Many people may have heard the name of other CPU vendors, but often feel they are simply cheap "clones." This is unfortunate, because the performance of these CPUs is comparable to the Intel CPUs. Although these other vendors generally release chips with the same performance several months after the comparable one from Intel, they are typically less expensive and therefore have a better price-performance ratio.

This is where business buyers really look. If a product provides the necessary performance and reliability at a lower price, it does not make business sense to pay for something just because it has an expensive television add. Therefore, more and more business, including PC manufacturers are switching to AMD CPUs.

One of the first successful "clones" of the Intel CPUs was the AMD AM5x86. The first assumption is that the "5" in that its name indicates that it is a clone of the Intel Pentium. Instead, it is much better to think of the AM5x86 at a high-end version of the 486. Tests have shown that a 133Mhz AM5x86 will not quite outperformed a 90MHz Pentium, but will outperform one at 70 MHz. Because of the reduced cost, you still get better performance dollar for dollar, despite the 48 faster processor.

The AMD K5 was the first Pentium-class CPU developed by AMD. One interesting aspect of the case five, is that it "translates" the Intel instructions into fixed length RISC instructions. This makes executing the instructions a lot faster, because the CPU does not need to waste time figuring out how on the instruction really is. In addition, since all instructions are the same length, they can be loaded more efficiently into the K5's six-stage instructions pipeline, which can process for instruction simultaneously.

Following the K5, AMD logically came out with the K6. One benefit of this CPU was the fact that and was the first on market which used Intel's own MMX technology. In addition, the K6 has instruction pipelines which are fed by a set of four instruction decoders. Like the K5, the K6 translates the Intel instructions into RISC instructions before executing them. Added to that the K6 has separate instruction and data caches like the Pentium, but those in the K6 or four times as large (32KB).

The successor to the successful AMD-K6 series is the AMD-K6-2, which is the first CPU to offers AMD's 3DNow! Technology. As you might guess from its name implies, 3DNow! improves system performance when displaying 3D graphics, something Intel's MMX technology was not designed to do. However, MMX does provide some performance improvements, so the AMDK6-2 includes MMX, as well. As of this writing, the AMD-K6-2 is available in speeds from 300MHz to 475MHz.

Next came the AMD-K6-III series. As with the AMD-K6-2, the AMD-K6-III series also provides AMD's 3DNow! technology. One of the most significant improvements is the addition of an addition CPU, which give it a "tri-level" cache. Thus providing a maximum cache of 2.3MB, which is more than four times as much as possible with the Intel Pentium III Processors. In addition, the L2 cache operates at the same speed as the CPU. This means the 450MHz version has the potential to outperform a 500MHz Pentium III.

The next step is the AMD-K7 processor. As of this writing, it has not yet been released, but the features announced by AMD are exciting. One important aspect is that it is expected to be the first CPU to support a 200 MHz system bus. This includes a nine stage, superscalar execution pipeline, with a 128KB L1 cache. This is twice what is currently available.

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Copyright 2002-2009 by James Mohr. Licensed under modified GNU Free Documentation License (Portions of this material originally published by Prentice Hall, Pearson Education, Inc). See here for details. All rights reserved.



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