New AMD chip set to boost Athlon PCs

The chipmaker launches its newest AMD 760 chipset and looks for big improvement in PC performance

Advanced Micro Devices Monday moved a big step closer toward realising its promise to offer chips and a chipset that would enable higher-performance PCs by late November, according to Tim Wright, who directs product marketing at AMD.

The chipmaker officially announced its 760 chipset, along with three new high-end Athlon processors, running at 1GHz, 1.13GHz and 1.2GHz. Company officials say the upshot will be improvements in the performance of PCs based on the new Athlon chip set over current models based on the Athlon chip.

AMD claims the machines will match PCs built with Intel's forthcoming Pentium 4 processor in performance.

The AMD 760 chipset increases the front-side bus from 200MHz to 266MHz, allowing for more data throughput. The front-side bus (sometimes referred to as the system bus) provides a data pathway between the processor and system components, such as memory. This improvement allows more data to be fed into the processor more quickly. The AMD 760 also has the ability to support a 200MHz front-side bus

To go with the faster bus, AMD announced three new Athlon chips that each support a 266MHz front-side bus. They include a 1GHz, a 1.2GHz and a new 1.13GHz chip.

More performance will come from memory. The AMD 760 chipset supports double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM (DDR SDRAM). This memory can more than double the peak bandwidth available from today's 133MHz synchronous dynamic RAM or PC133 memory.

Double data rate SDRAM will initially come in two flavours: fast and faster. The faster of the two, known as PC 2100, will run at 266MHz and offer 2.1GB-per-second of peak data bandwidth. This flavour will be paired with the new 266MHz front-side bus.

The other flavor, known as PC 1600, will run at 200MHz and deliver 1.6GB-per-second of peak bandwidth. It will be paired with a 200MHz bus and will likely ship in PCs more in the mid-range of the market.

Micron PC.com will be the first out of the gate in North America with a new PC line that pairs the Athlon chip with the new chipset and double data rate SDRAM.

The company, also known as Micron Electronics, Monday introduced Millennia Max Xp, a new line of PCs based on the Athlon chipset.

The line of PCs will initially include two models. When configured with a 1.2GHz Athlon, 128MB of 200MHz double data rate SDRAM, as well as a 17-inch monitor, the Xp will start at $1,999. This configuration will feature a 200MHz bus.

Micron's other Xp model will offer the 1.2GHz Athlon and 266MHz bus, will come with 128MB of 266MHz double data rate SDRAM, a 17-inch monitor, and a dual hard drive setup. It will have a starting price of $2,699.

Best Buy stores will carry similar models, designated Millennia B52-1003 and B53-1003, according to MicronPC.com.

AMD expects broader PC availability in 2001, when SDRAM becomes more prevalent. As such, PC makers including Compaq are evaluating AMD 760 for introduction early next year, AMD said.

While they will make for faster PCs, the performance improvements will carry only a small price premium, according to AMD officials. There may be a premium on PC 2100 memory, but it is expected to be in the neighborhood of 15 percent. However, Wright said that "some vendors" have pledged to include double data rate SDRAM at price parity with PC 133s. As a result, most AMD 760-based PCs are expected to list at prices between $1,800 and $2,500.

PCs based on Intel's Pentium 4 processors are expected to start at about $2,500 and reach $3,000 or more when fully configured.

AMD also got support from memory makers.

Micron Technology, Samsung, and Infineon Technologies, each said it would support AMD's 760 platform with double data rate SDRAM memory modules ranging up to 256MB. Over time, the technology is expected to increase in availability and decrease in cost.

See Chips Central for daily hardware news, including interactive roadmaps for AMD, Intel and Transmeta.

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