Turning the Tables

If you can't play by the rules, leave.   And that's exactly what the competition, particularly AMD, is doing.  Tired of fighting the war for the Socket-7 platform, AMD has laid out, beautifully, in plain black and white, their plans for the future.  Allowing the current Socket-7 users a bit of a transitional period in which they can get used to some of the features of a slot based system such as higher speed memory, AGP video cards, and definite performance improvements, AMD managed to spark quite a bit of interest in the market once again.  

Instead of playing by Intel's rules, AMD will continue to manufacture Socket-7 processors which will continue until early or mid 1999 at which point they will be abandoned in favor of a truly more advanced slot design, loosely known as Slot-A.  By not following the path Intel paved, AMD has opened themselves up to a world of success as well as a world of possible failures.  AMD is pursing a completely new design of processor with their first Slot-A entry, the K7, and unfortunately, we have nothing to compare this movement to in history.  Never has a microprocessor manufacturer made such a bold move against the reigning champ, however if there is every a time to do it, that time would be now.  Let's take a look at how AMD will be turning the tables as well as the best possible upgrade path for the user looking to save money yet have a decent system.

By the end of this year, AMD's K6-2 will be available in a much more competitive clock speed.  Hopefully reaching the 400MHz mark in the next two months, the K6-2 will be able to provide users with a viable alternative to the Pentium II.  While the Pentium II may offer greater levels of performance, the cost of constructing a K6-2 400 based system should be somewhat less than constructing an equivalent Pentium II system, with a future upgrade path lying in the hands of the upcoming K6-3 which is much like AMD's version of Intel's Celeron A. 

Which brings us to the next topic of discussion, if the K6-2/Socket-7 in general, is so much more economical than the Pentium II, what about the Celeron A?   Although the Celeron A is an incredible overclocker (for the most part, there are quite a few failure stories out there), if we're not talking about an overclocked system, the Celeron A is nothing more than a lower cost Pentium II maxing out at 333MHz.  If the performance you're looking for is in the Pentium II 300 - 333MHz range, then the Celeron A is definitely an excellent solution, especially since it does offer that overclocking opportunity we've all come to enjoy.  From an even playing field however, the K6-2 at 400MHz, should give the Pentium II 400 a fairly decent run for the money.

The Future 

So you have a K6-2, and you've been guaranteed (ugh) a future upgrade path to a K6-3...but then what?  Then you make your choice.   Intel has abandoned Socket-7, however in 1999, AMD, Cyrix, and Rise, among other microprocessor manufacturers have announced new processors which should all breathe new life into the slowly aging market.  The best course of action right now, is to save money in a Socket-7 (Super7) system, keep it up to date with AMD's promised release of the K6-3 later this year or early next year, and then make the move towards a slot based system, whether it be a Slot-2 Intel system or a Slot-A AMD system, we've got around a year to wait around for the two feuding manufacturers to produce a chip that's what we want.  Until then, don't go all out expecting to live off of your system for a few years, pick up a decent priced system that does what you need it to, and prepare for another history making move in the hardware world...this time the instigator is up for grabs, will it be Intel?  Or AMD?  Or maybe even someone else...only the future will tell.

Why the History Lesson?

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