AMD Delivers Dual-Core Athlon 64

Jay Wrolstad,
Wed Jun 1, 1:16 PM ET

Keeping pace with arch rival Intel (Nasdaq: INTC - news) in next-generation computing, AMD (NYSE: AMD - news) is bringing its dual-core technology to the desktop with the launch of an Athlon chip that promises higher performance in PCs and laptops.

The Athlon 64 X2 processor promises a performance boost of up to 80 percent on some digital media and productivity applications, compared to single-core Athlon 64 processors, the company contends. Among those backing the new chip are manufacturers Acer, Alienware, HP and Lenovo.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

The new Athlon processors follow closely on the heels of Intel's dual-core Pentium D chips, launched late last week in combination with the Intel 945 Express chipset that targets applications for businesses and consumers looking for chips that can handle multitasking chores.

Until now, AMD's dual-core technology has focused on servers with the Opteron chips, while Intel has concentrated on its bread-and-butter business in the PC market.

At this point, said Illuminata's Gordon Haff, dual-core chips provide more benefits for servers than PCs, primarily because there are more multithreaded applications available for server-level systems.

"Not that many applications on the desktop can take advantage of the new chips, but they are in the works," he said.

Hardware Holds the Key

Simon Yates of Forrester Research offered a similar take, pointing out that AMD's strategy is to target system builders not tied to the Intel platforms.

"AMD wants to provide flexibility by offering chips that improve performance yet enable hardware vendors to customize their products," he said.

AMD initially focused on the server side in developing dual-core and x86 technologies because that's where the growth opportunity resided, said Yates.

The principal benefit of dual-core chips is the ability to run a handful of applications simultaneously, or to handle multithreaded software, Yates said, adding that such software is still in the nascent stage. "It all starts with the hardware," he said. "AMD can now get more developers to turn their attention to applications for multicore processors."

Indeed, AMD is confident that the Athlon 64 X2 can ease the migration of multithreaded applications from the server to the client and consumer markets, including high-definition video rendering and editing, digital-content creation, imaging and audio mixing.

AMD this week also announced support for its dual-core Opteron and Athlon processors from leading motherboard manufacturers, such as ABIT, Sapphire, Shuttle, Soltek and Tyan Computer.

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