AMD ready to run up the score

Every five to six weeks between now and early next year, AMD will introduce faster Athlons - beginning at 1.1GHz, Monday

Advanced Micro Devices is looking to turn up the performance of systems based on its Athlon chip before the end of the year. The company will speed up its introduction of new processors, delivering faster Athlon chips starting with its 1.1GHz CPU, which will appear in systems starting next Monday.

It is expected that, between now and early next year, AMD will introduce new clock speeds every five to six weeks. A 1.2GHz Athlon is waiting in the wings, and AMD's publicly stated goal is to hit 1.5GHz early next year.

"You'll see more frequency over the next few months, but you'll also see platform improvements," said Martin Booth, a product marketing manager in AMD's Computational Products Group. AMD officials were on hand, just a few feet from the action, at the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, to answer questions from reporters.

The chips will be joined before the end of the year with new chipsets (including AMD's own 760) that support faster double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM (DDR SDRAM) technology and offer higher system bus speeds. The AMD 760, for example, will support DDR SDRAM and a 266MHz system bus. The system bus provides a data pathway between the processor and system components. AMD's goal is to boost the performance of Athlon-based desktop PCs without driving prices up too high. There will be a higher cost associated with the new memory technology and the new chipsets -- however, AMD officials expect it to be a few hundred dollars and not out of the price range of performance enthusiasts.

Systems containing the faster chips, DDR SDRAM and 760 chipsets will come in at the high end of AMD system price points, which range from about $1,800 to $2,500 or higher, AMD officials said.

Although cost is always a consideration, "at the high end of the market, people are pretty educated and they're going to buy on performance," Booth said. AMD will, in addition, transition to its newest Athlon processor core, codenamed Mustang, and launch mobile Athlon and Duron chips before the end of the year. Mustang, among other things, offers higher levels of cache for performance increases and lower power transistors for mobile applications.

AMD recently also dropped prices on its Athlon desktop chips. While the new 1.1GHz chip will cost $853 in quantity, the price of AMD's 1GHz chip fell from $990 to $612, and the price of its 950MHz fell from $759 to $460.

As reported by ZDNet News, AMD is also close to a deal with Transmeta.

AMD officials confirmed discussions between the two companies. However, it appears that the discussions with Transmeta centre on the startup chip maker licensing AMD's Lightning Data Transport bus technology. Known as LDT, the technology provides a high-speed interconnect between system components, and processors, in a PC.

AMD has been promoting LDT as an industry standard, Booth said. "We've been out licensing this," he said.

AMD chairman and chief executive Jerry Sanders may know more about the deal, but right now he's not talking.

See Chips Central for daily hardware news, including an interactive timeline of AMD and Intel's upcoming product launches.

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