New AMD chipset to make monster PCs

The chip maker on Monday will launch its 760 chipset, which should make for some super-fast Athlon-based PCs

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is preparing to unleash a new, higher-performance desktop PC platform for its Athlon chips.

On Monday the chip maker will officially announce its AMD 760 chipset, sources said. The new chipset will provide several key performance enhancements for Athlon-based PCs that should combine to offer increases in performance over current Athlon-based systems.

Performance benchmarks will not be made public until Monday, but AMD officials have said they expect significant increases from Athlon/AMD 760-based PCs. AMD also expects its 760-based PCs will match PCs built with Intel's forthcoming Pentium 4 processor in performance.

The new AMD 760 chipset will provide system performance increases in two ways. First, it will increase 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.

The company is also expected to announce new Athlon processors that support a 266MHz front side bus.

Second, the new chipset will support higher bandwidth memory. The new memory -- called double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM (DDR SDRAM) -- can more than double the 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. It should be expected that this memory will be paired with the new 266MHz front side bus.

The other flavour, known as PC 1600, will run at 200MHz and deliver 1.6GB-per-second of peak bandwidth. It should be expected that this offering will be priced somewhat lower. It will be paired with a 200MHz bus and will likely ship in PCs more in the mid-range of the market. The AMD 760 will also support a 200MHz front side bus.

It's the 266MHz bus and PC 2100 memory that will make all the noise, though. AMD will tout a PC with its recently announced 1.2GHz Athlon chip, a 266MHz bus, and PC 2100 double data rate SDRAM as the new PC performance leader.

Major PC makers are expected to announce systems based on the new chipset and memory technology next week. One new company that is expected to jump on this bandwagon will be Micron PC.com, also known as Micron Electronics.

The PC maker, sources said, will announce on Monday plans to offer an Athlon-based PC with the new chipset and double data rate SDRAM.

Possibly the most important aspect of the new system improvements is that while they will make for faster PCs, they will carry only a very small price premium, AMD officials have said. This means that AMD 760-based PCs will likely hold the line on pricing at between $1,800 and $2,500, right where AMD-based machines are now.

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.

The new AMD 760 chipset and double data rate SDRAM are expected to be available in PCs shortly. But they might not all be available in the reseller channel right away or at the same time, according to sources familiar with the AMD 760 platform project.

AMD also announced a dual-processor version of its AMD 760, called the AMD 760MP. Systems based on that chipset are not expected until next year, company officials have said.

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

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