When the Celeron (Mendocino core) processor was first introduced its performance was outstanding and the value it offered was incredible. As time moved on, the Celeron’s architecture remained the same and its features grew stale. The performance gap between it and its older brother the Pentium III, increased as well. We went from whole heartily recommending the Celeron at 300MHz to suggesting that you keep your distance at 800MHz. The first chips were without a doubt very attractive, but without updating the chip itself beyond giving it SSE support it was bound to reach its limits.
Just around the time when we grew tired of every Celeron release, AMD’s Duron came along and restored our faith in high-performance value CPUs. In fact, we concluded our first review of the Duron processor with the very words: “value doesn't have to mean slow.” Back then, well over a year ago, the Duron was running at an “amazing” 700MHz. Unlike the Athlon processor that has gone from an introductory speed of 500MHz to a currently available 1.4GHz, the Duron was more than content under the 1GHz marker.
We eagerly proclaimed the Duron to be the king of the value segment and also indicated its viability as a high-performance, low-cost solution as well. Without the FSB bandwidth limitations of the Celeron and a very high L2 cache hit-rate there was almost no way that the Duron would fall victim to the same fate as the fading Celeron architecture.
In fact, other than clockspeed, the only thing that separated the Duron from the Athlon was L2 cache size. With a 64KB L2 cache, the Duron still performed within 10% of an equivalently clocked Athlon which happens to have 4 times the amount of L2 cache.
Earlier this week AMD released the very first Duron CPUs running at 1GHz. Unlike the previous few Duron releases, this one is actually the introduction of a new core design as well. With AMD’s pricing structure so very aggressive, is the Duron as convincing of a buy at 1GHz as it was when it “only” ran at 700MHz? That’s the real question we’re here to answer.
The Perfect AMD Platform?
Earlier this week we showed you a comparison of the four most popular Socket-A chipsets that are compatible with AMD’s Athlon and Duron processors. For the most part, the DDR chipsets featured in that comparison performed within a reasonable margin of one another. We concluded then that you can’t really go wrong with any of the DDR chipsets from a performance standpoint. However the thing that made one of the contenders stand out among the competition was price. The SiS 735 chipset can be found on a motherboard for less than $80; we have even seen advertisements for this particular motherboard (the ECS K7S5A) for $65.
When the AMD 760 chipset was released it was crowned the perfect AMD platform because of its performance. When the KT133A chipset made its way out the doors it took the crown because of its PC133 SDRAM compatibility during a time when DDR SDRAM was expensive. Now the SiS 735 chipset assumes that very same title but mainly because its pricing mimics what AMD’s CPU pricing is currently. Today you can go out and buy a Duron for as little as $25; are you really going to want to pair a $25 CPU with a $150 motherboard?
It is for this reason that we chose to test all of the Athlon/Duron CPUs in this review on ECS’ SiS 735 based K7S5A motherboard. The K7S5A’s latest BIOS includes specific support for the new Morgan core that this Duron 1GHz is based on.