AMD busts out 850MHz Athlon

AMD retakes the speed record with its newest chip. 1GHz is just around the corner. Who will make it there first?

More performance. Faster clock speed. Sticking to these two goals, Advanced Micro Devices Friday announced its 850MHz Athlon processor for desktop PCs.

"Execution" is the most important word heard around AMD's Sunnyvale, California, headquarters these days, as the company, steeped in its rivalry with Intel, strives to be the speediest chip maker. Today it is. Chipheads will rejoice in the fact that the new 850MHz chip bests Intel's fastest Pentium III chip by 50MHz.

For consumers, however, the new chip, which should be available immediately, means an additional choice to evaluate before purchasing a desktop PC.

The newest Athlon, priced at $849 (£517) in 1,000-unit quantities, will be available in PCs from a number of manufacturers. Compaq, IBM and Gateway began taking orders on systems Friday.

A Gateway Select 850 PC will be priced at $2,899 with the 850MHz chip, 100MB of memory and a 19-inch monitor. Pionex Elite will also offer the chip in workstations, which will range in price from $2,299 to $4,299.

The Athlon chip is manufactured at AMD's Austin, Texas, Fab 25 manufacturing plant on a 0.18-micron process. The chip supports a 200MHz system bus -- the data pipeline that runs between the processor and other system components -- based on Digital Equipment's Alpha EV6 bus.

AMD is expected to move the chip soon to a new processor core, which will help improve performance by bringing its external Level 2 cache onto the chip. This will improve the chip's access to data, offering a performance boost. Chips such as this will also be sourced from AMD's Dresden, Germany, fab.

The Athlon is also nearing the 1GHz mark. AMD demonstrated a 1.1GHz version of a next-generation Athlon earlier this week.

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