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Review: AMD Duron 1GHz ['Morgan' Core]

by David Ross on 21 August 2001, 00:00


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AMD Duron 1Ghz [Morgan Core]

If I had said to you 2 years ago we would see a budget CPU for under 80$s which is at 1GHz you would have said I was lying, well I am not. We have seen AMD over the past 2 year release many new CPUs over 2 interfaces, and 3 different types of CPU. It has to be said that AMD have turned the market around since Intel used to dominate the market, but now they don’t. AMD have fought back with some very special products.

As we have already shown and as a lot of you out there know, the Duron is an amazing CPU. Its primary aim is for performance and value for the home desktop user. It is for budget not for POWER. But this is somewhat a different schema to what AMD have done. So AMD have released another speed increment to enable the user to have this unforseen power.

While AMD has a good end number of end users and mostly they sell to the end user directly either via mail order or retail outlets, they currently don't have lots of OEMS on their side. But this seems to be changing rapidly. Especially with the recent release of the AMD 760MP (2P) based platforms. So why hasn't it taken off as well as Intel? Well Intel firstly has the blue men running all over the place, and also the noise, the "dum dee dee dum". I personally don’t see why AMD CPUS haven’t been adopted by so many OEMS as if you look at the performance it beats it all over; forget about the price, this unit is powerful.

It has to be said again, they aren’t the biggest player in the consumer and desktop market but this is due to the OEMs which they need to make a partnership with, but for end users AMDs are the only way to go! It has to be asked how the market would be without the Athlon "effect". AMD have managed to pull the speed up and the price down on the x86 range. They have the Athlon Thunderbird which is a P4 beater; they have the Palomino core which they have been developing. The Duron is now not only beating the Celeron, it is up there competing with the Pentium 3 and with these new enhancements it is a beater.

The Morgan Core :-

The Spitfire Core :-

However no one can say that Intel isn’t trying. They have the Tualatin, which is a very good improvement over the P3 platform and it has tweaked very well. They also have the P4 which is a very impressive core if you look at the architecture behind it. The P4 has a lot more of a future since the VIA DDR Platform was released and also the soon to be released i845 hits the shelves. The key advantage of the P4 is the memory bandwidth, and the fact of higher clock speeds but this doesn’t mean anything! It is like buying a car, you can buy a diesel car and a petrol car, and the diesel will only go to 5000 revs but does this matter? Meaning the petrol does 6000 revs, what’s the difference, Well one is more efficient and has other key advantages such as speed, performance, and also reliability, and COST effectiveness.

The new Duron is based on the Morgan core, which is basically a Palomino orientated core, aimed at the budget market.

I get endless emails about the Athlon 4 and Palomino - which are infact the same CPU. But what is different about this and the older Thunderbird core. The Palomino is a tweaked up version of the Thunderbird, it has reduced power consumption and heat dissipation. They managed to cut the power outlay by around 20%. The thing is AMD didn’t NEED to release this new core, so they pushed back the core until release now, and what is good is that the consumers get a little more than just this heat and power reduction. Infact you get a lot more for your money!

The mobile processors were launched by AMD around 2 months ago, this seems a long time but the market take-up has been impressive. They originally had their K6-II+ and K6-III+ processors for the mobile market. Unfortunately for AMD these didn’t quite cut it... They didn’t compare to the Intel mobile range.

A processor works in a special way; it uses transistors which basically switch many 1s and 0s. The Spitfire core has 25 million transistors all of these were different size, the new Morgan core has 25.18Million transistors. It was AMDs first attempt at a "budget" unit based with the L2 cache on die. This new Duron core has a stack of new optimizations. These can all help with the power saving. The die size of the Duron based on the Morgan core is 106mm^2 compared to 100mm^2 which the Spitfire core has.

So what new features are there on this core? Well let’s start at the top. The first major change is data prefetch. This basically means that there is an extra part of cache which sits next to the L2 cache. There is an exclusive range of 64K of L2 cache, which being exclusive means that there is no duplication across the caching platform, there is no multi addressing. This means that the Duron runs with FULL power FULL size cache. They have added to this the automatic data prefetch system to the core. This has an advantage, the core "predicts" what data is needed next and it will go and collect this data, and holds it in the cache meaning that there is an increase in speed as the cache can feed the CPU any data which it wants or needs. This gives more and more performance the higher the speed gets in both FSB and memory bandwidth. This aids the DDR platform even more so. The data prefetch is nothing "new" it has been around for a while, but they have just evolved it in to something more powerful and useful. The entire functions can be adapted and manipulated by the software the reason for this means that the core can be optimized for the operating system and also programs!

When the Athlon was first developed and launched there were 19 new instructions which were added to the CPU, which is what they refer to as 3DNow. They have added another 52, yes 52! Instructions to this new core, this is 3DNow Professional and is very similar to the SSE which the P3 is running currently. So how does this help you? Well it won’t make you WANT to buy it but these improvements mean that the current software on the market which is already coded to take advantage of these extra instructions can also aid the cores performance, and a lot of current applications are developed to be enhanced by these extra instruction sets.

SIMD instructions are something else; it lets you run a single instruction in multiple data series or datasets. This helps with the manipulation of 3D operations, and co-ordination of mathematical space into vectors. This helps with mathematics.

The advantage of applying SIMD principles means you can apply multiple data points which mean that you can save a bit of time, thus more speed.

The extra things which also help with the thermal issues on the core are the reduction in power which the core needs to run, they have cut the power down, it runs at 1.75volts, but the overall power dissipation is reduced. this has be possible by the introduction of more transistors across paths which can be cross which means it is quicker for the data to move across the die, this means that the core runs cooler. The core runs at 46.2W max power, and 41.2W typical power.

The have also added something which I find very clever, this is Power Now! The advantage of this is that the processor can physically change the speed on the fly, and it also changes the voltage, this is all down to the load on the CPU. It runs slower for the lighter applications, and faster for the higher demanding applications.

So what you're saying! Well PowerNow! Isn’t advantageous to desktop machines but mobile systems will take full advantage, the technology needs to have full bios and chipset support to be taken advantage of.

The final addition to the core is the on-die thermal diode which measures the internal temperature; this is very similar to the Pentium III and Pentium 4. This gives users a lot more help when using there systems as the readings will be more accurate. This won’t just WORK, but the diode will have to have full bios and hardware support. This means that the system will need to have a bios update to run it even though the VIA686B Southbridge does have full support.

Well to test this we decided to compare this to several different 1 GHz units. We are comparing this unit to the 1Ghz Thunderbird, a Duron Spitfire core clocked at 1Ghz (from 950), and of course a 1Ghz Morgan based core.

AMD Testing System : -
Mobo - VIA KT133A Based Mainboard
Graphics Card - Visontek Geforce 3
Memory - 256MB Crucial PC133 Cas 2 RAM
Cooling - Vantec Cooler
HD - 18GB Quantum Atlas 10K II
CD/DVD - Teac 32X CD ROM
Sound - SB Live 1024
Network - Intel Pro 100 Management


As you can see this new core is very competitive compared to the older spitfire core, the thunderbird is leading in this sector due to the extra L2 cache which is on the core. Even so for a budget CPU the Morgan core is definitely impressive.

Why do we still use 2000? Well we have found that people know "relative" scores so it is easier to compare the results which we have here with the results you guys are getting yourselves.

Yet again the new Morgan core beats the Spitfire core by a rather healthy lead. This is going to be an exceptional CPU platform.

In Winbench the idea is to have a higher score. This benchmarking software gets the most from your CPU. This shows what power there really is behind the Morgan core. The core is a very good performer and it leaves the Spitfire miles away.

As you can see the Duron is very competitive now, even more so with these enhancements on the core. The Duron runs on the 100MHz Main FSB, but using AMD's step up issues, it delivers higher bandwidth of 200MHz inside the Core (Ev6 DDR Bus). The L1 Cache on the CPU (designated for Data and instructions, 64KB for each) and the 64KB L2 cache, means that the Duron is a cheap chip but has a VERY good performance. Right up there with the TBirds but under 1/2 the price ;)

So what? Yep I can hear you saying that. Well in the next few months we will see changes, with the ending Thunderbird and the desktop Palomino introduced. A Lot of people are planning to go 760MP which is a very smooth platform I am running it myself.

So far what we can say is that this new speed for the Duron yet again shows it is a cost effective price for a performance unit. This new core is an excellent improvement and the speed is competitive. I think that everyone who isn’t running a 1Ghz+ TBird should upgrade to it, unless you want to wait for the desktop Palomino unit. It is perfect for the market AMD have developed it for. they don’t work like Intel with "disabling features on a product", they just built a budget unit. It is built for the demand within the market.

The main differences between the Athlon and the Duron are that the 60% cache on the Duron means that it needs more memory bandwidth to increase its performance. Data that the CPU doesn’t have within L1 or L2 has to be located from the main memory this means that this memory needs to be high bandwidth and performance or the system will slow down in speed, as it has to idle whilst waiting for this information.

Overall this is a good improvement over the already solid AMD Spitfire platform, I would have no problems running one of these CPUs.