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Краткое содержание статьи: Don't miss the scoop on the fastest system ever tested by Tom's Hardware Guide!

KryoTech's Cool Athlon 800MHz

Редакция THG,  13 августа 1999


It seems like all the interest these days is centered on the newly released AMD Athlon Processors. In our previous article "The New Athlon Processor - AMD Is Finally Overtaking Intel" we took a detailed look behind the architecture and showed some truly amazing performance results. Just when we thought we had seen the best of the best, KryoTech gives us one of their Cool Athlon 800MHz rigs to test.

Kryotech, 'The House of Cool Computing' has been the leader in CPU-cooling technology for quite a while. However, in the past their systems still weren't quite the top-performers, because they couldn't team up with Intel, and use their top-notch processors, but chose AMD instead. AMD's past processors were good performers, but they weren't quite fast enough in all of the computing aspects, even when cooled and thus clocked a lot higher than their original specs. Now times have changed, AMD is producing a CPU that is faster than the competing products from Intel in all aspects that are important for computing. This puts Kryotech's Cool Athlon in the position of not only passing Intel's top-performers, but really leaving them in the dust. Finally Kryotech is able to show what they really can do, not only in terms of cooling technology, but also in terms of vast performance.

About the System

We went into detail a while back regarding KryoTech and their technology in a previous article "The Overclocker's Dream KryoTech's Home of Cool Computing". Now KryoTech has taken this same proven technology and applied it to AMD's Athlon processor. They've been working hand in hand with AMD's support and were able to take a 600Mhz Athlon processor and clock it up to 800MHz. The first sample we received from KryoTech was shipped to us as a typical barebone-system, including a Microstar MS-6167-motherboard, Cool AMD Athlon 800MHz CPU, and Tower Chassis. KryoTech will alternatively use the Gigabyte 7IX-motherboard as well, and the systems will start shipping at about $2200.00 in early September.

The KryoTech Cool Athlon 800MHz system runs like any other standard PC. The only difference is that when you power up the system, the refrigeration unit starts first. Once the refrigeration unit hits -36 degrees Celsius the unit automatically powers up the system board.

What's this thing look like?

Cool Athlon

Here's a picture of the KryoTech Cool Athlon 800MHz system, showing the same design that some of us may already know from the previous Cool K6-2 and K6-3 Kryotech-systems. When you here about the implementation of a refrigeration unit, the first thing that comes to mind is big and ugly. We think KryoTech did a great job concealing the refrigeration unit. However, this unit is not only fast, it's damn heavy too.

Chassis Inside View

Inside the system is very open and uncluttered, although KryoTech has to pipe the coolant from the bottom of the case (refrigeration unit) to the CPU slot (Slot A).

Chassis Inside View, Top Half Close Up

Here is a close up of the top half of the system board. The coolant tube routing provides sufficient space for getting to the memory sockets and just enough room to add or remove the AGP video board.

Chassis Inside View, Bottom Half Close Up

In this picture you get a good look at the bottom half of the system board. Again, the coolant tube routing provides plenty of room available for the addition of PCI and ISA boards. Screwing down the adaptor boards requires some skill and patience but definitely isn't an impossible task.

What's this thing look like? -Continued

Refrig Unit Seperated

The bottom half of the chassis is what makes this system so cool. This is where the refrigeration unit hides. If you follow the insulated coolant tubing (black tube) you can see the edge connector of the Athlon processor. This tube feeds the coolant to the CPU. There's one significant downside to this part of the system, it weighs some hefty 50+ pounds, making it quite a drag moving the system around.

Refrig Unit Close UP

This is refrigeration unit. You can see the compressor, where the coolant-gas changes back to liquid, releasing the heat.

CPU and Capsule Closed

And here we have a close-up of the CPU cooling capsule, where the coolant surrounds the CPU.

CPU and Capsule Opened

Opening the CPU-capsule reveals a look at the Athlon CPU, of course without its usual housing. You can see the backside of the Athlon processor. The off-white wires in this picture provide the required heating of the capsule's sealing for evaporating the un-wanted condensation.

Show me the Numbers!

To give the user an idea of where the KryoTech Cool Athlon 800MHz performance sits we tested several platforms. Included in the testing are Intel's Pentium III 550 & 600MHz processors, and AMD's Athlon 600 & 650MHz processors. The application benchmarks include SYSMark98 under Windows 98 & Windows NT. To test the FPU performance we used 3DstudioMax under NT. And for the gamers out there, I included results from Quake 3 Arena, Quake 2 and Half-Life.

The System Setup

Platform AMD AMD Intel
Motherboard AMD Fester B3
BIOS AFTB00-06 8/2/99
Microstar MS-6167 1.0
BIOS v1.0 B11
Abit BX6 2.0
BIOS date 7/13/99
Memory 128MB
Viking PC100 CAS2
Viking PC100 CAS2
Viking PC100 CAS2
Graphic Diamond Viper V770Ultra Diamond Viper V770Ultra Diamond Viper V770Ultra
Hard Disk Western Digital WDAC 4180000 EIDE
DMA mode enabled
Western Digital WDAC 4180000 EIDE
DMA mode enabled
Western Digital WDAC 4180000 EIDE
DMA mode enabled
Network Netgear FA310TX Netgear FA310TX Netgear FA310TX

And here's the software configuration:

Software/Driver AMD Intel
AGP driver v4.45 AGP miniport
dated 5/11/1998
BM driver v1.11 IDE driver
dated 5/11/1998
Graphic driver NVIDIA reference drivers 2.08
(Win 98/NT)
VSYNC disabled
NVIDIA reference drivers 2.08
(Win 98/NT)
VSYNC disabled
Windows98 Windows 98SE 4.10.2222 Windows 98SE 4.10.2222
WindowsNT Windows NT SP4 Windows NT SP4
Desktop Resolution 1024x768,
16 bit color
16 bit color
Refresh Rate 100 Hz 100 Hz
Quake2 Version 3.20 3.20
Quake3-Test Version 1.08 1.08
Halflife Version

Business Application Performance Under Windows 98

Windows 98 - SysMark98
Looking at the Windows 98 results the Cool 800MHz Athlon scales very well. The 200 or 150 MHz higher clock rate definitely shows its advantage over the two 'slower' Athlon-siblings.

Business Application Performance Under Windows NT

Windows NT - SysMark98
The SYSmark98 results under Windows NT show the same trends as the Windows 98 results. Again, the 800MHz Athlon results scale well.

Floating Point Performance under Windows NT

Windows NT - 3D Studio Max
Wow! At 800MHz the Athlon provides almost double the performance over the Pentium III 600Mhz. 3D-rendering software typically runs pretty tight loops that can be handled within the CPU's caches. This is why 3D Studio Max scales perfectly with CPU clock speed. 800 MHz are 33% higher than 600 MHz and 109 pph are 33% more than 82 pph. It's very hard to find any other kind of software that scales as well as 3D-renderers.

3D Game Performance under Windows 98

Windows 98 - Quake 3 Arena v1.08
Looking for the fastest system for Quake 3 Arena? Look no further. The KryoTech Cool 800MHz Athlon simply screams.

Windows 98 - Quake 2 CRUSHER.DM2
No surprise. The Athlon 800MHz processor achieves the fastest score in Quake 2. However, you can notice that the bottleneck is quickly becoming the video board, even with the CRUSHER.DM2 demo.

Windows 98 - Half-Life
You'll notice we have never included Half-Life in our Suite of benchmarks when we do 3D graphics board reviews. Why? Because the CPU is the bottleneck with this game. Half-Life is a great benchmark for displaying CPU overall performance. Looking at the 36 FPS score, Half-Life enjoys the extra frequency of the Athlon 800MHz.

The Athlon at 800 MHz

Kryotech's system offered us a look at the performance of an Athlon at 800 MHz. Due to Athlon's half-speed 512 kB L2-cache and its big dual 64 kB L1-caches we expect that Athlon scales with clock speed very well. Let's have a look at the results.

Performance Increase of Athlon 800 System over Athlon 600 System

3D Studio Max scales perfectly, we see an increase of the 33% that 800 MHz is more than 600 MHz. The rendering process is running almost completely within Athlon's big 1st level cache. Half-Life requires a lot of CPU-performance too, which is why it benefits from the 200 MHz higher clock frequency by 24%. Sysmark 98 under Windows98 and NT is restricted by the hard drive performance, which impacts the performance increase down to 20 or 19%. Quake2 and Quake3 are depending on the graphics card performance, even at a resolution of only 640x480x16. This is why the performance increase at Quake3-Test is only a meager 12%.

Overall we should still expect an average performance increase of 60-90% of the clock speed increase with AMD's new Athlon. The big caches will make sure that this doesn't change even at clock speeds beyond 1 GHz.

We would like to take the opportunity and mention one little issue with Athlon's L2-cache that could easily be forgotten. Running the Athlon at 800 MHz doesn't ask too much from the Athlon-core-chip, but it requires the L2-cache to run at 400 MHz. Whilst AMD is producing the Athlon-core, it doesn't have quite as much control over the production of the L2-cache chips. At this point in time it's very hard to find L2-cache chips that actually run stable at 400 MHz and it will be even more difficult to find faster chips. The solution for this situation would either be an on-die cache in future .18µ Athlons or external cache-modules produced by AMD, just as Intel is manufacturing the external L2-cache of the Xeon-CPUs. There's of course a third possibility as well, but it's the least attractive one. AMD could start running the L2-caches of faster Athlons at only one third of the core clock, but this will cost performance.


Kryotech is finally getting the merits this company deserves. In the past, Kryotech had to live with the criticism that they didn't use the fastest available CPU for their cooling system and thus couldn't reach top-notch numbers in all the benchmarks. Now with AMD's new Athlon-CPU, the best performer even without cooling, Kryotech is finally scoring way ahead of any competition. Please consider that this is only the first step. The Athlon-processor used in the 800 MHz-system is still based on the .25µ-technology of the currently shipping Athlon-models. AMD is already producing future versions based on .18µ-technology. Those Athlons will easily reach 1GHz and more with Kryotech's cooling and I doubt that we'll have to wait too long for those systems. The only other way to increase the performance of Kryotech's boxes even more would be SMP-systems with two or four Athlon-CPUs. People who do 3D-rendering will then see Kryotech-systems that render more than 8 times faster than a Pentium III 600-system, or still at least double as fast as a quad-Pentium III 600 system.

The Athlon's SlotA-package enables Kryotech to use a much easier and more practical design for the evaporator and the isolation. It enables the user to change the motherboard of the Cool Athlon System and even the CPU-card can be changed, although it needs to be obtained by Kryotech, due to the multiplier and bus speed programming that's required.

Our experience with the KryoTech Cool 800MHz Athlon system has been very good so far. This system has proved very stable and we will continue to hammer this system in our Lab. This 800MHz Athlon system is definitely by far the fastest system ever touched by Tom's Hardware Guide. If you want the fastest Athlon system available and have $2200 bucks lying around look no further than KryoTech's Cool 800Mhz Athlon system.

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