Open main menu

The Am386 CPU is a 100%-compatible clone of the Intel 80386 design released by AMD in 1991. It sold millions of units, positioning AMD as a legitimate competitor to Intel, rather than being merely a second source for x86 CPUs (then termed 8086-family).[1]

An AMD 80386DX-40 in a 132-pin PQFP, soldered onboard
Marketed byAMD
Designed byAMD
Common manufacturer(s)
  • AMD
Max. CPU clock rate20 MHz to 40 MHz
FSB speeds20 MHz to 40 MHz
Min. feature size1.5 µm to 0.8 µm
Instruction setx86 (IA-32)
Product code23936
L1 cacheMotherboard dependent
L2 cachenone
ApplicationDesktop, Embedded (DE-Models)
  • DX variant:
    132-pin PGA
  • 132-pin PQFP
  • SX variant:
    88-pin PGA
  • 100-pin PQFP
  • DE variant:
    132-pin PGA
    132-pin PQFP


History and designEdit

Wafer of an Am386 processor withIntel logo.
Die of AMD Am386DX.

While the AM386 CPU was essentially ready to be released prior to 1991, Intel kept it tied up in court.[2] AMD had previously been a second-source manufacturer of Intel's Intel 8086, Intel 80186 and Intel 80286 designs, and AMD's interpretation of the contract, made up in 1982, was that it covered all derivatives of them. Intel, however, claimed that the contract only covered the 80286 and prior processors and forbade AMD the right to manufacture 80386 CPUs in 1987. After a few years in the courtrooms, AMD finally won the case and the right to sell their Am386 in 1992. This also paved the way for competition in the 80386-compatible 32-bit CPU market and so lowered the cost of owning a PC.[1]

While Intel's 386 design peaked at 33 MHz, AMD released a 40 MHz version of both its 386DX and 386SX, extending the lifespan of the architecture. The AMD 386DX-40 was popular with small manufacturers of PC clones and with budget-minded computer enthusiasts because it offered near-80486 performance at a much lower price than a real 486.[3]

This is because the 486 needed fewer clock cycles per instruction, thanks to its tighter pipelining (more overlapping of internal processing) in combination with a crucial on-chip CPU cache. However, because the Am386DX-40 had the same 32-bit width on its data bus as an 80486, but operating at the same 40 MHz rate as the processor, (rather than the 25 to 33 MHz buses of the 486 DX-2s) it had comparatively good memory and I/O performance.[4]

Am386DX dataEdit

  • 32-bit data bus, can select between either a 32-bit bus or a 16-bit bus by use of the BS16 input
  • 32-bit physical address space, 4 Gbyte physical memory address space
  • fetches code in four-byte units
The various models of the Am386DX, data from[1][2]
Model number Frequency FSB Voltage Power Socket Release date
AMD Am386DX/DXL-20 20 MHz 20 MHz 5 V 1.05 Watt 132-pin CPGA 1991
AMD Am386DX/DXL-25 25 MHz 25 MHz 5 V 1.31 Watt 132-pin CPGA March 1991
AMD Am386DX/DXL-33 33 MHz 33 MHz 5 V 1.73 Watt 132-pin CPGA 1991
AMD Am386DX/DXL-40 40 MHz 40 MHz 5 V 2.10 Watt 132-pin CPGA 1992
AMD Am386DX-40 40 MHz 40 MHz 5 V 3.03 Watt 132-pin PQFP 1992

Am386DE dataEdit

  • 32-bit data bus, can select between either a 32-bit bus or a 16-bit bus by use of the BS16 input
  • 32-bit physical address space, 4 Gbyte physical memory address space
  • fetches code in four-byte units
  • there is not a Paging Unit
The various models of the Am386DE, data from[1][2]
Model number Frequency FSB Voltage Power Socket Release date
AMD Am386DE-25KC 25 MHz 25 MHz 3-5 V 0.32-1.05 Watt 132-pin PQFP ?
AMD Am386DE-33KC 33 MHz 33 MHz 5 V 1.05-1.35 Watt 132-pin PQFP ?
AMD Am386DE-33GC 33 MHz 33 MHz 5 V 1.05-1.35 Watt 132-pin CPGA ?

AM386 SXEdit

In 1991 AMD also introduced advanced versions of the 386SX processor -again not as a second source production of the Intel chip, but as a reverse engineered pin compatible version. In fact, it was AMD's first entry in the x86 market other than as a second source for Intel.[5] AMD 386SX processors were available at faster clock speeds at the time they were introduced and still cheaper than the Intel 386SX. Produced in 0.8 µm technology and using a static core, their clock speed could be dropped down to 0 MHz, consuming just some mWatts. Power consumption was up to 35% lower than with Intel's design and even lower than the 386SL's, making the AMD 386SX the ideal chip for both desktop and mobile computers. The SXL versions featured advanced power management functions and used even less power.[5]

Am386SX dataEdit

  • 16-bit data bus, no bus sizing option
  • 24-bit physical address space, 16 Mbyte physical memory address space
  • prefetch unit reads two bytes as one unit (like the 80286).
The various models of the Am386SX, data from[2][5][6]
Model number Frequency FSB Voltage Power Socket Release date
AMD Am386SX/SXL-20 20 MHz 20 MHz 5 V 1.68/0.85 Watt 100-pin PQFP 1991
AMD Am386SX/SXL-25 25 MHz 25 MHz 5 V 1.84/1.05 Watt 100-pin PQFP 29 April 1991
AMD Am386SX/SXL-33 33 MHz 33 MHz 5 V 1.35 Watt 100-pin PQFP 1992
AMD Am386SX-40 40 MHz 40 MHz 5 V 1.55 Watt 100-pin PQFP 1991

80387 coprocessorEdit

Floating point performance of the Am386 could be boosted with the addition of a 80387DX or 80387SX coprocessor, although performance would still not approach that of the on-chip FPU of the 486DX. This made the Am386DX a suboptimal choice for scientific applications and CAD using floating point intensive calculations. However, both were niche markets in the early 1990s and the chip sold well, first as a mid-range contender, and then as a budget chip. Although motherboards using the older 386 CPUs often had limited memory expansion possibilities and therefore struggled under Windows 95's memory requirements, boards using the Am386 were sold well into the mid-1990s; at the end as budget motherboards for those who were only interested in running MS-DOS or Windows 3.1x applications. The Am386 and its low-power successors were also popular choices for embedded systems, for a much longer period than their life span as PC processors.


  1. ^ a b c d "The AMD Am386 DX Processor". 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Shvets, Gennadiy (5 November 2011). "AMD 80386 microprocessor". CPU-World. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  3. ^ "386DX-40 and competitors". the red hill cpu guide. 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  4. ^ Linderholm, Owen; Miller, Dan (1 December 1992). "486SX-25s vs. 386DX-40s: the upstart fights back. (evaluations of 30 microcomputers based on Intel Corp.'s 80486SX-25, 80386DX-40 microprocessors) (Hardware Review) (Systems: 486SX-25 vs. 386-40) (Evaluation)". Highbeam Business. Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b c "The AMD Am386 SX Processor". 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  6. ^ [1], AMD Datasheet no 15022.

External linksEdit