Where Are They?

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I haven’t written in a while because I’ve been involved in a rather major comparison between the two major RAID cards on the market and finding out all sorts of strange things about benchmarks and OSs. You’ll see the results of that in a day or so. Plus, I’ve also had to deal with some family health problems (everything’s OK, thank you).

During this time, though, outside of the new Celerons slowly becoming available, what has been most noteworthy is not something that happened, but something that did not: the emergence of cB0 stepping Coppermines.

Outside of the high-end Coppermines, and some Celerons, they aren’t out there, folks. I’ve been periodically checking Deja for sightings. Outside of what I’ve just mentioned, nada, zilch, zero claims from anyone claiming to have a chip with a CPU sspec that would be a cB0 stepping for a Coppermine 700 or less.

Where are they?

Let’s start from what we do know:

  1. Intel is continuing to have problems making flip-chips, and thus continues to have supply problems.
  2. Last quarter’s PC sales weren’t as hot as some would have you believe. They certainly dropped less than usual from the 4Q 99, but they still dropped close to 10% rather than the usual 15%. So Intel was not faced with overwhelming demand, though the phasing out of Katmai chips may have effectively increased demand for Coppermines.
  3. People didn’t turn around and buy zillions of Athlons, either. No knock on AMD, but they only sold 1.2 million, or about 4% of CPU demand. AMD will not be able to make zillions of Athlons until Death Star Dresden starts pumping out significant millions of chips, which won’t be until the later end of the year. A lot more people than expected did buy K6-2s, though.
  4. It’s pretty hard to pull manufacturing equipment off-line when you aren’t making enough as is.
  5. Some rumors have it that in order to make 1Ghz chips, Intel has devoted some of its production capacity to making these chips with a tweaked process that gets some chips at higher speeds while sacrificing yield.
  6. Intel has clearly given OEMs first priority on chips, leaving resellers the leftovers. These new chips may be all sitting in Dells or Compaqs or Gateways. Or they may not be.

  7. A rather disturbing trend in the CPU database is the almost complete lack of recently manufactured chips in the upper ranges. If you look at the 550E and 600E entries, you see plenty of CPUs made at the end of February/early March. You don’t see that for the 650E and 700E. Why? It could be that Intel has decided to market fewer 100Mhz chips and more 133Mhz chips.

What should I do?

  1. First, if you’re going to be satisfied with 800Mhz, there is no point in waiting any more. The current 600Es (which should cost a little more than $200 shortly) can do that. If you can get more than that, consider it gravy.
  2. If you are looking at a 650Mhz, don’t assume you’ll get 867Mhz or better. You might, you may not. Looking at the CPU database, it seems that most of those doing 867 or better are using peltiers or combos of peltiers and water cooling to reach that. Unless you are willing to do those kinds of things, the 600E is a better choice.

  3. If you are looking at buying a 700Mhz processor and getting over 900Mhz out of it, you had better wait, or scale down your expectations. The only two representatives that did 933Mhz or better did it with peltiers.

Are Thunderbirds coming to the rescue?

Uhhhh, not real soon.

You have two basic problems with the Athlon Thunderbirds:

  1. They’re due out in June, and yes, they will be fast. Very fast. But they will cost an arm and a leg for at least the first few months they are around.

  2. What you really want is to pair a Thunderbird up with is a DDR motherboard. This, of course, not only requires a DDR motherboard, but DDR memory. Neither exist yet, and probably won’t be commonly available until the fall.

The Thunderbird’s time will come. Unless Intel can do something miraculous with Coppermines (and up to now, they can’t even do what they’ve promised), I find it incredibly hard to see how a Thunderbird/DDR combo would not be
what an overclocker would want under his or her Christmas tree. Not much before then at a somewhat reasonable price (and maybe not even then).

Can’t you ever recommend an AMD product?

The current AMD Athlons have that cache problem, which really hurts once you get to 900Mhz or 1Ghz, both in performance and in finagling around with Golden Fingers and cache ratios. If I weren’t going to overclock a machine, I’d recommend one, but, after all, what is the name of this website? 🙂

The Spitfires may be very interesting, though. The new Celerons just aren’t all that good; from an overclocking perspective, it will be an OK cheap upgrade once they get under $100. The Spitfires have a good chance of being better. Since you’d probably want to wait until the 566s get under $100 anyway before buying one, you might want to keep an eye out for a Spitfire review. Especially if you are thinking about a new system rather than extending the life of a BX-based computer.

Summary

We are caught between a rock and a hard place. Right now, there is no excellent solution for someone looking to revamp or buy a computer system. Everything has some problems, or is less than we would have hoped for a couple months ago, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get fixed any time soon. Outside of the Spitfire, the most promising innovations look like they’ll come (or become affordable) towards the end of the year.

If you continue to wait, you may wait for what is a relatively long time for what may be little noticeable improvement for you. It was one thing a couple months back to tell you to wait a couple months for faster processors and a good motherboard.

However, since Intel seems incapable of meeting any kind of schedule, and all I can say at this point is maybe we’ll see these processors and motherboards someday, that’s a much less reasonable suggestion.

However, if you don’t wait and settle for what you can do now, you’re probably not going to be too awed with the results.

I recently had someone asking me about upgrading from a Celeron 550. I couldn’t honestly recommend an upgrade from that; there just wouldn’t be that much improvement over what he already had, and it was at least arguable whether it was worth the cost of the processor.

Whatever you do or don’t do, the next computer you have after this period is going to require you replacing your entire core. This will not be a small or medium upgrade. Whether it be an Athlon with DDR or a Willamette, it will require a CPU, mobo, and memory change, at minimum. Gamers of course will want a new video card, too.

The only recent piece of good news is some of the reviews of the new generation video products. The new NVidia, for instance, should finally be able to take advantage of the faster processors at high resolution. The best upgrade you may make in the near future, especially for gaming, may be your video card.

Email Ed


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Discussion
  1. AMD's 65nm processors are somewhat sparse right now. But at the same time they are not much different from the 90nm AM2 chips. For now I would actually wait for AMD's K8L to come out. Your best bet is to go with a core 2 and yummy DDR 2 memory. Thats your best bet, unless you want to wait till mid to late next year for the K8L.
    c2d is for sure the best thing right now :) no t faming or anything but all amd has is the x2 to compete with the c2d and thats it.