On June 19, 2000, AMD released their first value processor based on a new architecture since they brought the K6 to the eyes of the public, over three years ago.  This processor was capable of delivering 90% of the performance of high performing Athlon while still being targeted at the value PC market segment.  At that time, it had been months since the market had seen a high performance yet cost effective processor.  This processor, the AMD Duron, had changed all of that.

It was instantly on the enthusiasts wish list.  Now selling for well under $100 per chip, in many cases the Duron was just barely more expensive than a K6-2 or a K6-III, which couldn’t even dream of offering performance competitive to that of the Duron.  In terms of competition from outside AMD, even a Celeron overclocked to speeds that we still won’t see for another three months couldn’t offer superior performance to the Duron.

But to this day, companies like Gateway don’t even offer a single system based on AMD’s Duron.  Companies offer Celeron, Pentium III and definitely promote their Athlon based systems, yet if someone wants to purchase a high performance, low-cost system, the Duron seemingly isn’t an option. 

Most AnandTech readers that build their own systems know the power and potential of the Duron -- just run over to the AnandTech Forums and read about TheNemesis’ new Duron 600 system or how Regalk got his Duron to run at 969MHz.  Why is it that these big retail manufacturers aren’t doing the same?  Do they just not see the potential of the processor? 

The fact of the matter is that they do understand the potential of the Duron.  The problem is, however, that they have no platform to run it on.  But what about these KT133 boards that everyone is building their Duron systems around, why can’t the retail guys simply use those?  Unfortunately, when building sub-$700 systems that include a free printer and a scanner along with 24/7 tech support, these larger system manufacturers have to make some sacrifices. 

You won’t see GeForce2 or even GeForce2 MX based graphics cards in these systems; most of the time you’ll see something listed as Intel 3D AGP Graphics.  And that Intel 3D AGP Graphics is nothing more than the integrated video present on the i810E chipset, which is exactly why the majority of the PCs in the value market segment are built using Intel Celeron processors. 

System integrators and OEMs love the idea of having a highly integrated platform.  If they can put together a system without having to include third party graphics accelerators, modems or sound cards, they’re happy since that’s money saved.  And guess what VIA’s KT133 chipset doesn’t provide - integrated video support.

On the other hand, Intel’s 810E chipset is perfect for these system builders since it’s a tried and true solution with integrated audio, modem and video support.  Not only that but the chipset support both the value Celeron processors as well as the mainstream 100MHz FSB Pentium III CPUs.  Using a single system design, a vendor can offer this idea of a “built to order” system to their customers, when all that’s being changed is how many sticks of SDRAM are installed, what hard drive they screw in and what CPU they place in the socket.

These system builders don’t care much for performance since their customers mainly purchase based on clock speed and brand name, so the Duron really doesn’t have any advantages for these guys. 

If AMD had the 3D technology to implement their own graphics core into a chipset they would have, then the Duron would be killing the Celeron in sales across the globe.  However, AMD still isn’t to the point where they can do something like that.  Intel developed the 3D core that went into the i810E and i815E chipsets with Real3D back in the i740 days when Intel had dreams of getting into the 3D graphics business.  While those dreams fell apart, the very capable 3D core found its way into Intel’s chipsets and is the reason for the continued success of the Celeron processor, even in spite of the Duron’s superiority when it comes to performance. 

Without a desirable platform to sell the Duron on, AMD had no choice other than to focus on shipping more Athlons, and that they did.  As of November 2000 approximately 24% of the retail desktop market belonged to the Athlon.  But will things turn around for the Duron?

In Europe they have; numerous vendors have picked the Duron over the Celeron, but in North America the same can’t be said.  We would be painting a different picture for you had VIA delivered the KM133, a KT133 with an integrated Savage4 3D graphics core, last year as originally planned.  However, VIA got caught up in producing chipsets for the much larger Socket-370 market which forced the KM133 onto the backburner, and also opened up the market for another manufacturer to step in and save the day for the Duron.

Move over VIA, SiS is back
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