The Fall Rumble

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You’re going to see some articles around expounding the wonders of the 1.8Ghz Willy.

For most of a year, we’ve been saying, “If you’re interested in Willy, wait for .13 micron.” We still think that a good idea.

At this point, though, we can probably venture some guesses as to how well Willy2 is do vs. the AMD competition.

It’s going to be close.

Right now, Willy needs roughly about a 40% edge in MHz to beat an MP. We’ll probably see some improvement in Willy2 that will cut the margin down to 35%.

Given Intel’s roadmap and current Willy overclocking; it probably won’t be too hard to get the first crop to the neighborhood of 2.5Ghz.

Assuming no other changes, that would imply you’d need about a 1.9Ghz Palomino to match it. I personally have growing doubts we’re going to see people regularly hitting 1.9Ghz with at least the first set of Palominos; I suspect 1.7-1.8Ghz will be more like it.

However, AMD has a few likely factors in its favor:

  • Motherboards such as the nForce are likely to boost AMD performance a bit.
  • The fall will probably bring with it PC2700 modules, and might drag along a 166Mhz FSB standard.

    Intel has a likely negative in its corner:

  • Those percentages I mentioned presume use of RDRAM. Willy2 DDR boards will likely take a significant performance hit (5-10%) over RDRAM boards.

    These factors will probably be enough to level the playing field except in those relatively few areas where Willy shows advantages now.

    Cost Decides

    In such a situation, cost then becomes the deciding factor for many if not most. Intel apparently wants to try to charge $500 or so for these processors. Add to that what will still be significantly higher RDRAM costs, and any advantages such a system might have over an AMD Palomino/DDR will be an expensive one.

    Don’t be surprised if AMD plays “me, too” behind any Intel price increases and tries to charge something more like, say, $300, for its top of the line processors.

    This strategy is extremely dependent on the success of a third-party, Microsoft. Essentially, Intel and AMD have to hope that millions and millions of people wake up one morning and say, “If I want XP, I need a new machine!”

    I really don’t think this is going to work. If companies have to choose between laying off people and buying 2Ghz computers, they’re not going to buy 2Ghz computers.

    Consumers? I think the day of the mainstream $2,500 computer is long gone. It died during good times, how can you expect to revive it during at least semi-bad times?

    I don’t think these price increases will hold very long.

    The Likely Future: Much Heat, Little Smoke

    The closer the real performance difference between two products, the more yelling there will be about it.

    Willy2 should look relatively better than the original has against the AMD competition. It will probably do a few more things better, but will certainly not blow out the Athlon in overall performance. Unfortunately for Intel, the additional cost of an RDRAM platform will probably be a killer for most people.

    Willy2 with DDR will be more competitive cost-wise, but is likely to fall a little short of top-end AMD performance.

    The Out-Of-Left-Field Factor

    What could make Intel a winner for at least a little while would be a much faster ramp-up than they currently plan (which means CPUs more capable than we currently think). If they can make processors that can reach 2.7-3.0Ghz, that should be enough for a significant advantage. Until the .13 Palominos come along, that is. Conceivable, but unlikely.

    So what we’re likely to see is pretty much more of the same thing, with growing numbers wondering why they need a new one at all.

    Email Ed

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