AMD K6-2

by Anand Lal Shimpi on May 27, 1998 2:30 PM EST
One of the biggest problems with the original MMX instructions was the lack of software support, this was an issue that was brought up long ago by those who closely watched the development of the technology behind AMD's 3DNow! instructions.  Luckily AMD had the foresight to attack this problem before the release of their K6-2, in all the demonstrations AMD provided of the chip, the processor was usually running what has grown to be the standard gaming benchmark among many, Quake 2.  Once the K6-2 started cranking out 'Pentium II - like' frame rates it began to draw attention to itself, AMD had proven that it could be done, now how it could be done was the question posed.  A valid question, basically asking for AMD to define what was necessary to get the 3D performance the market desired, Now!

The Catch

In order to take advantage of the 3DNow! Instructions on the K6-2 you must have software support, that is the catch on which the success of the entire K6-2 platform is based upon.  Without software support, you have nothing more than a K6 running at a high clock speed.  Support for the instructions can come in many flavors, the most intelligent move by AMD was to work with Microsoft on including 3DNow! support in Microsoft's next release of their Direct X API (Application Programming Interface), Direct X 6.0 to be specific.  In that case, any game using Direct X 6 will experience a small benefit, but naturally not the full benefit, from the 3DNow! instructions.

In the event that a game is written to specifically use the 3DNow! instruction set it will experience a definite improvement on a K6-2 system in comparison to a standard K6 system, an improvement that can even eliminate the performance barrier between a Pentium II and a K6-2 system.  Games can, of course, be patched to take advantage of 3DNow! instructions, however as of now Quake 2 is the only game which has been blessed with that.  Don't expect too many older games to be re-worked with 3DNow! support, however you can expect increasing amounts of support in new and upcoming games.  A perfect example of this would be G.T. Interactive's visual wonder, Unreal which has native support for the K6-2 and its 3DNow! instruction set, a feature which is evident in its performance on K6-2 systems.

A Call to Action A "Super" Chip
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