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Reviewed By: Carl Nelson [11.15.01]
Manufactured by: AMD
Suggested Price: $89.99 Find a MUCH lower price on iBuyer!

Did they do it right this time?

Continuing 'budget week' here at hardCOREware, today we are looking at AMD's CPU for the thrifty, the Duron 1.1 Ghz.

Although it is considered a budget CPU, the Duron has always shared pretty much the exact same architecture as its older brother, the Athlon.  Unlike Intel's Celeron, which is absolutely crippled by a low FSB speed (single data rate even), the only real difference between the Duron and the Athlon was the amount of L2 cache; Duron having 64K and Athlon having 256K.

Since the Duron was introduced in early 2000, it slaughtered its only competition in nearly every case.  The Celeron, with its 66 Mhz FSB was no match for the might Duron, and its 200 Mhz DDR FSB.  For those looking to build a PC for under $1000, it was considered the best option for your CPU.

Unfortunately, that was then, and things have changed somewhat.  Looking at our Weekly CPU Price List, we can see that Durons not only share feature-parity with the Athlon, but they are very similar in price as well.  For instance, at the time of this writing, the 1.1 Ghz Duron we are reviewing (currently the fastest Duron available) can be found for as low as $80, where a 1.1 Ghz Athlon is only about $5 more.  Since the Athlon is basically the same as a Duron, only with a larger L2 cache, there's no real contest here, right?

About Morgan

Well it's not that simple... At 1000 Mhz, the Duron got a new CPU core, codenamed Morgan.  Morgan is basically to Duron as Palomino is to Athlon (IE Athlon XP / Athlon MP).  Some of the more important features of the Morgan/Palomino CPUs are its data prefetch support similar to the Pentium 4, and SSE instructions, again similar to Intel's.

So now the high-end Duron can be considered as a potential alternative to a low-end Athlon.  We will never see an Athlon below "1500+" with these features.

Hover over this image to view the Athlon and Duron WCPUID Results

As you can see in the image above (hover over it), when clocked with the same FSB rate, the Duron and Athlon are pretty much the same, except the fact that the Duron supports SSE instructions, and of course only has 64K of L2 cache.

Unleash the Fury

In this article, we are going to look at the Duron 1.1's performance against the Athlon 1.2.

We were able to overclock our Duron to 1.2 Mhz easily, by unlocking with a pencil (A quick how-to on this can be found here, at Tweak-Hardware) and changing the multiplier and FSB settings.  No high-end cooling was necessary, and with marginal effort, you should be able to do the same with your Duron. 

The most important part of this overclock is that, like on the Athlon 1.2, the Front Side Bus is now at 266 Mhz.  We included original 1.1 Ghz scores to show what a difference this can make (certainly it makes more of a difference than 100 Mhz in CPU speed).

So with all things equal, does the Duron have what it takes to be a more viable solution than a low-end Athlon? Let's get busy with the benchmarks!

Update: Just a few hours after this article was published, AMD issued a press release regarding their newest Duron processor, at 1.2 Ghz.  Note that the retail 1.2 Ghz still runs at a 200 Mhz bus, so our 1.2 Ghz speeds will be higher.  Expect speeds of the new Duron to be somewhere between our 1.1 Ghz at stock FSB and our 1.2 Ghz at 266 FSB in terms of performance.

Page 2: Test Methods and Synthetic Benchmark Results

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