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AMD Athlon XP 3200+ - getting acquainted
Last week we saw how AMD's first processor featuring the Barton core faired. Today we take a look at the second processor to get the Barton treatment, the XP 3200+.

AMD has had a good few months, and whilst 2002 was a relative let-down from the highs of 2001 (where AMD gained market share and seemed to have the poorly performing Pentium 4 on the rack), 2003 has seen much optimism from the Sunnyvale chip maker. The big product released from the AMD stable was the Opteron, and whilst this chip holds relatively little interest for the home user, AMD are banking on it's success since the target area of Opteron is where the big bucks are. The Opteron has been well received and now much lies on how the traditional server and workstation manufacturers adopt this new technology. Later this year we will see the Athlon 64, which is aimed at the desktop market. Before that appears, we should see a couple of speed bumps for the Athlon XP range. So here is the first of those speed bumps. The Athlon XP 3200+ features the same Barton core that had its debut on the 3000+ in February. This time around we see the front side bus (FSB) speed increased to 200MHz (400MHz DDR). Many expected the FSB increase to occur with the launch of the Barton processor, however AMD decided to stick with the 333MHz FSB. It was a curious choice, and cynics would say that it was fuelled by Intel not launching their Pentium 4 'C' units, which also run at 200MHz FSB (800MHz Quad Pumped) at the time of XP 3000+'s appearance. That has, as of 14 April 2003, changed, with Intel debuting the 875P (Canterwood) and the Pentium 4 'C' 3.0GHz chip.

The Canterwood/P4 'C' package was extremely well received by the hardware community and rightly so. Even the older 533MHz FSB chips were exhibiting performance increases on Canterwood motherboards, and whilst chipsets are generally launched with little fan-fare, the Canterwood was given the full treatment typically reserved for new processors. Intel had much to shout about, debuting new technologies such as Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT), dual channel DDR 400 support, ICH 5/R, Serial ATA (SATA RAID on the ICH5R) and Communication Streaming Architecture. The launch didn't go off completely without problems, as reports started flying about problems with the processor which meant the new CPUs wouldn't be available in the shops as quickly as hoped. That problem has been fixed and Intel say that no faulty processors ended up in the hands of consumers.

Would you like some vinegar with those?

Apart from the Opteron launch, AMD haven't been standing still. They launched the Athlon MP 2800+ which we believe is one of the best value workstation solutions currently available. Featuring the Barton core and thus having 512KB of Level 2 cache these units should provide users who don't need 64bit computing in the form of Opteron ample SMP power. Sadly the 2800+ maybe the last upgrade of the Athlon MP line as AMD moves towards Opteron and Athlon 64.

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So what's the XP 3200+ all about? Since we've already seen the Barton core on the shelves for a few months now, it removes some of the shine from this product. What we do see here is 400MHz FSB and that means DDR 400 memory can run synchronized with the Front Side Bus. Other than the increased FSB speed there isn't a whole lot different in this processor from the 3000+. The clock runs at 2.20GHz and whilst some people will moan that it doesn't represent a big enough leap in megaHertz, we should know by now that AMD isn't all about clock speeds. The XP 3200+ is fabricated with AMD's 0.13micron copper inter-connect process at their FAB 30 plant in Dresden.

Because the XP 3200+ uses the same Barton core as the 3000+, many of the microscopic properties remain identical. Transistor count stays at around 54.3 million and die size is 101 mm^2. The size difference between Barton and Thoroughbred cores can be attributed to the extra cache that is present on the former.

One important note is that AMD intend to ship this processor today (13 May 2003), the day of launch. Therefore we should start seeing units on the shelves within the first week of June. The antics of the 2700+ and 2800+ are thankfully long gone, and AMD demonstrated this with the 3000+ and today with the 3200+. Pricing for the 3200+ is $464 each (when purchased in 1000 unit quantities). Last week we saw a little price shuffling in the AMD desktop product line to fit this new model in.

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As a sign of confidence, AMD included the Ajigo MF035-032 heatsink. Ajigo doesn't hold the same reputation as others in the heatsink field, however the unit supplied was small and quiet. The copper base was hardly up to the standard that overclockers would expect, however the 3200+ flew along without any problems. The main reason why this small and quiet heatsink was included with the XP 3200+ that was sent to us (and other publications) was a show of confidence by AMD at the XP 3200's thermals. It's no secret that a growing number of people have moved towards wanting quieter computers and the latest Athlon XP needs to follow that trend.

We're pretty sure you are eager to see what the XP 3200+ is all about, so off we go to the labs.