The AMD Athlon and Duron are good sixth-generation processors that for years were hampered by mediocre chipsets. Considered in isolation, the Athlon is at least as good as the Pentium III and the Duron is in most respects better than the Celeron. But you can’t use a processor without a chipset, and inferior chipsets have plagued AMD processors since their introduction.
The first Athlon chipset, the AMD-750 “Irongate,” was intended by AMD as a technology demonstrator rather than as a production chipset. AMD didn’t want to be in the chipset or motherboard business, although we don’t understand that decision. It had always intended that production chipsets for its processors would be manufactured by VIA, ALi, and SiS. But VIA was very late to market with its first Athlon chipset, the KX133, so AMD was forced to produce the Irongate in volume for early Athlon motherboards.
The situation has improved since those early days. The majority of Athlon/Duron motherboards now use one or another VIA chipset, and the quality of subsequent VIA chipsets has improved. Current VIA chipsets are usable, if not quite up to Intel chipsets in terms of performance, compatibility, and stability. AMD produces the excellent but now aging AMD-760 series of chipsets, which we regard as equivalent in quality to Intel chipsets.
Table 3-5 lists the characteristics of three first- and second-generation VIA chipsets for the Athlon/Duron, with the AMD-750 shown for comparison. ...