In benchmark tests, AMD's K6 holds its own against Pentiums

Although benchmark scores are important in defining a system's performance, Advanced
Micro Devices Inc.'s new K6 results didn't equal the scores of Intel Corp.'s Pentium MMX
or Pentium Pro on our GCNdex32TM benchmark suite. The K6 scored only a bit higher than a
regular Pentium.


But wait-I forgot to mention that the K6 was running at 166 MHz and the Pentium PCs the
GCN Lab compared it with were running at 200 MHz.


The K6, an engineering sample, executed every application we could throw at it without
a hitch. MMX-enhanced x86 code flowed unimpeded through the processor. Digital Equipment
Corp. sent us the new processor in one of its prototype 166-MHz K6 PCs for the Venturis
FX-2 value line. The company's high-end Celebris series currently has no K6 model. Given
Digital's patent-infringement legal fight with Intel, AMD processors could be important to
Digital's PC future.


The test machine came with 32M occupying one of three banks of synchronous dynamic RAM
in dual in-line memory modules. The high-quality SDRAM can support 100-megabyte/sec
transfer rates, and 32M RAM is more than enough to hold the array setup for calculations.


Secondary cache on the Venturis is 256K of pipeline burst cache, wired into the
motherboard and not upgradeable. That's the standard amount on most PCs.


The GCN Lab usually runs the test suite three times at different video resolutions and
color depths. We ran the K6 performance more times but saw no gain or loss.


In other words, the 166-MHz AMD chip slam-dunked a 200-MHz Intel Pentium and came in
just under a 200-MHz Pentium MMX.


The video component of the GCNdex depends primarily on the graphics accelerator,
although many drawing commands are a processor function. We've observed performance boosts
from the MMX processor's better graphics handling.


The Venturis' integrated 64-bit S3 Trio accelerator, with 1M of synchronous graphics
RAM, handled requests well and scored behind the Pentium MMX but ahead of the Pentium Pro.


File access speed depends more on the hard-drive speed than processor speed. The 2G
Western Digital Corp. drive performed right on par with the Pentium MMX PCs the lab has
tested. Pentium Pros tend to excel in this area because they use the Microsoft Windows NT
File System, which is more efficient than Windows 95's File Allocation Table.


We loaded more than 50 applications on the Venturis, including all three leading office
suites and several utilities. All the applications worked normally.


We timed basic tasks like search and replace, and bit-map illustration filters. Some
worked a little faster, some a little slower.


The Venturis is a solid PC with a clean, organized interior. Digital included its
ClientWorks software but not a network interface card for us to test ClientWorks on the
network.


The best thing about the K6 is not performance but price. The chip itself costs about
$150 less than an Intel Corp. Pentium MMX processor. Digital has said it will price PCs
with AMD chips about 14 percent below comparable PCs running Intel processors.


inside gcn

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