K6 launch is CPU milestone

AMD ushered in a new era of competition when it formally announced its AMD-K6 MMX processor today in London.
Written by Martin Veitch, Contributor

The firm said that the chip will give PC makers and buyers more freedom of choice, lower prices and spur innovation thanks to its unique design. The 8.8m transistor part is based on AMD's RISC86 architecture and sports a smaller die than Intel's Pentium Pro with which it competes, making it a cheaper device to manufacture. It is also more energy efficient than the Pentium Pro, making it more appealing for makers of notebook and other mobile PCs.

The K6 fits straight into the Socket 7 slot that is ubiquitous on Pentium motherboards, making it economical for system assemblers. Intel's Pentium II - effectively a Pentium Pro with MMX - uses a new architecture called Slot One. PC vendors who will use the part include UK vendors such as Elonex and Evesham Micros. More vendors will follow shortly, AMD promised.

"I think everyone would agree the microprocessor market has lacked real competition in recent times ... That wait is over," said Richard Previte, president and chief operating officer in a press conference held at the Royal College of Arts this morning. "We believe the product will change the current environment [and] it's an environment that needs changing. K6 is smaller, faster, more energy efficient and far less expensive [than Pentium Pro]."

Previte claimed the K6 is the fastest x86 processor in the world, showing the 200MHz version of the chip besting a 200MHz Pentium Pro in benchmarks, and said the K6 will be about 25 per cent cheaper than equivalent clock-frequency Pentium Pro chips. The K6 will initially be offered at 166, 200 and 233MHz speeds with a 300MHz device lined up for the July-September quarter when AMD will move production from a 0.35 micron process to a 0.25 micron process, enabling yet smaller dies, faster speeds and lower pricing.

AMD will this month begin construction on a new fabrication facility in Dresden, Germany and believes that by early 1999 it will be able to supply up to 30 per cent of the world's microprocessors.

Rob Herb, VP for group strategic marketing, said AMD has shown its roadmap to customers. Plans include support for Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) and IEEE.1394 (FireWire) later this year, and a 100MHz bus is also in the works. Longer term, Lance Smith, director of technical marketing, said a K6 that supports Intel's new Slot One architecture is "technically possible".

PCDN Comment: This is red letter day in x86 CPU development. AMD has the capacity, and now the product, to make a real dent in Intel's dominance of the x86 market. If AMD executes its plan effectively it will doubtless add many more vendors to the shy PC makers who fear Intel so much that hardly one turned up for the K6 conference. Look out for Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and IBM to be among the early adopters. Even staunch Intel loyalists like Dell and Gateway will be looking very closely at AMD - ditto for notebook makers

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