AMD's K6-2: A strong alternative to Intel's PII

As one of the last chip manufacturers battling for market share with Intel Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has developed a new processor called the K6-2 that stands up to the ubiquitous Pentium II, both in performance and price, according to tests by the FCW Test Center.

Released in late March, the x86-compatible K6-2 microprocessor with new 3DNow! technology, for advanced graphics performance, and a quick 100 MHz Front Side Bus (FSB) has plenty of power to fit the needs of government users. And it comes at a very low price.

AMD, Sunnyvale, Calif., has begun a campaign to gain more share of the federal market. The company plans to host several seminars to educate the market about the price and performance benefits of the K6 line of processors. In addition, at the end this month AMD plans to add a new page to its World Wide Web site (www.amd.com) to detail the cost-saving benefits for the government market.

We tested two 300 MHz K6-2 systems: a custom system from AMD and an Everex Systems Corp. machine available to government buyers. Both of these K6-2 systems fared better on our benchmark than the average scores for similarly configured Pentium IIs.

The AMD system earned an overall SYSmark/32 score of 310, which was 3 percent better than the average SYSmark/32 score of 302 for 333 MHz Pentium IIs reviewed last month [Government Best Buys, June 1]. While this system is not available for purchase, its great performance shows the full potential of the K6-2.

The Everex Tempo K scored 3 percent lower than the Pentium IIs with an overall score of 294, but that number is still good considering that the Everex system ran at 300 MHz rather than 333 MHz, as did the Pentium IIs.

The K6-2 is the first chip to be compatible with Socket 7 motherboards while running at an FSB frequency of 100 MHz. Socket 7 is the form factor for fifth-generation CPU chips from Intel, Cyrix Corp. and AMD. All Pentium chips, except Intel's Pentium Pro (Socket 8) and Pentium II (Slot 1), are based on Socket 7.

Intel has decided to phase out Socket 7 and replace it with Slot 1 form factors for Pentium II and beyond. But because the K6-2 is Socket 7-compatible, Pentium PC owners can upgrade their systems with K6-2 chips as long as they buy Super7 standard motherboards, which feature new technology developed by AMD.

AMD has incorporated the newly developed 3DNow! technology into the K6-2, thereby improving the CPU's data transmission to allow better performance and more realism in 3-D imaging. To see the performance improvement with 3DNow!, however, the K6-2 system requires Microsoft Corp.'s DirectX or similar graphics software.

So if you are looking for an alternative to Intel Pentium II machines, consider AMD's K6-2 because of its great price/performance ratio.

In addition to the Everex system, government buyers can purchase K6-2 systems from Vertex Technologies Inc. (formerly Win Laboratories Inc.), V- Squared and Micro-X.

-- Armstrong is a contributing technology writer for the FCW Test Center.

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System Specs

The first system we tested was specially designed by AMD to maximize the K6-2 chip's potential. The system was loaded with 64M of SDRAM, a Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc. Viper V330 AGP graphics adapter, a Turtle Beach Voyetra Montego PCI A3D sound card, an Adaptec Inc. 2940 Ultra/Wide SCSI controller, a 32X SCSI CD-ROM drove, an IBM Corp. Ultrastar 9G Ultra/Wide SCSI hard disk drive and important drivers such as the Microsoft DirectX 6.0 and an Acer Laboratories Inc. AGP driver.

The Everex Tempo K we tested was not quite as souped up as the AMD system. It came with a VA-503+ (Super7) motherboard with 1M of Level 2 cache, 64M of SDRAM, a Diamond Viper 330V 4M AGP video card, an Aureal Semiconductor Inc. PCI wave table sound, a 32X IDE CD-ROM drive, a 6.4G hard drive, Microsoft DirectX 6.0 and other optimization drivers. The midtower chassis has three 5.25-inch external drive bays, one external 3.5-inch drive bay and two internal 3.5-inch drive bays, leaving plenty of room for expansion. The Everex unit we tested, including a 17-inch monitor and stereo speakers, is available on Government Technology Services Inc.'s GSA schedule for $1,488.

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