Duron: The Real Celeron?

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This is a quick article to speculate a little bit about AMD’s new challenger to the Celeron, the Duron.

We are starting to get details about this chip.

What Does It Cost?

Initial tentative pricing from Lynn Computers:

  • 600Mhz: $89
  • 650Mhz: $115
  • 700Mhz: $159

Can It Overclock?

Don’t know yet, but potentially, it’s pretty interesting.

For starters, the initial speeds indicate that it is a 100Mhz bus chip. There will be a new kind of motherboard for it, the KZ133. For our purposes, what’s important is that it will support
bus speeds of 133Mhz or more. I know, the first Athlon boards had problems going much over 100Mhz, but the KX133 and KZ133 are based
on the Via chips going into those PIII boards, so the motherboard should theoretically be OK.

What About The Chip Itself?

It’s going to have on-die cache like the Celerons and Coppermines, so unless this cache is barely capable of running at its rated speed, we
have a good chance at a good-sized overclock without having to face cache divisors and Golden Fingers for this chip. If it can do it (and we’ll just have to wait for testing), this chip should be as easy to overclock as an Intel chip.

How Will It Perform?

This is a very interesting question, because the Duron has a cache structure unlike any other.

The Celeron has a 32K L1 and a 128Kb L2 cache. The Duron, on the other hand, almost reverses the proportions; it has a 128Kb L1 and only a 64Kb L2 cache.

The only item I could find benchmarking a Duron came from AMD Zone, which referred to a Taiwanese benchmark site that ran tests like CPUMark, FPUMark and 3DMark 2000. Not exactly what you’re looking for, but the Duron’s numbers looked pretty good compared to the Celeron’s. If it can overclock roughly as well, it probably will score somewhat better than an O/Cd Celeron.

Problems

In a word, motherboards. The Duron requires a KZ133 motherboard. Although it’s going to debut next month, most mobo manufacturers probably won’t have their initial offerings out until July or August.

The KZ133 is an adaptation of the KX133, so hopefully there won’t be too many of the initial quirks shown by this class of Via board.

That’s not the real problem for upgrading overclockers, though.

Durons and Thunderbirds will both apparently run on the same socket A mobo. That is very good news; you could buy a cheap Duron, use it for a few months, then buy a Thunderbird when it becomes affordable.

The real problem is if you want to do something like that, the ideal Thunderbird system is a DDR motherboard with DDR memory, and neither will be available at the time of product release.

If all you want is a fairly cheap, good computer system that you’ll use for a couple years, this is not a big deal at all; you’d be in the same boat with any Intel system. But if you buy a Duron (or Thunderbird) now; when DDR comes out in a few months, you’ll have to toss both motherboard and RAM.

For some reason, people get attached to motherboards. People are upset that their new KX133 motherboards won’t run with Thunderbirds. For those people who’ll get upset their not-even-bought-yet KZ133 motherboards won’t run DDR in a few months, this was for you. 🙂

Conclusions:

  • If you plan to eventually upgrade your BX board with an overclocked Celeron; this is probably not for you. You’d have to buy a new mobo, and buy PC133 RAM to get the most benefit out of this.
  • If you are planning a new cheap, core system, especially if this is a back-to-school special, the Duron may be just what you’re looking for. There’s a pretty good chance it will be better than an equivalent Celeron system, and we’ll certainly know for sure by the time you have to get one.
  • If you need a computer soon, and want a Thunderbird eventually, it might not be a bad idea (outside of the DDR problem) to start off with a Duron system, then buy a Thunderbird later on. Even a few months from now, once DDR systems are available, that may be a really good move.

Email Ed


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