AMD, Intel up the speed ante on desktop chips

AMD, Intel up the speed ante on desktop chips

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Intel raised the speed limit for desktop PCs last week, with Intel using smaller circuits on its Pentium 4 processor to increase its clock-speed advantage over AMD.

Both companies launched their chips on the eve of the giant Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, freeing PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard and Compaq to show off new systems at the show based on the faster chips.

Intel launched a 2.2GHz Pentium 4 that uses its new Northwood chip core, which is manufactured using a 0.13-micron process, compared to previous versions of the chip which used the 0.18-micron process. The numbers refer to dimensions of circuits etched onto the surface of the chips.

Along with a smaller die size, Intel also doubled the amount of Level 2 cache on its new Pentium 4 processor to 512KB, up from 256KB on previous versions.

The new Intel chip runs at 1.5 volts, compared to 1.7 volts for previous versions, Intel said. Dropping the voltage consumes less power and produces less heat, which should allow the company to increase the clock speed further with future releases.

AMD also launched its latest high-end processor, the Athlon XP 2000+, which has a clock speed of 1.67GHz and comes with 384KB of on-chip, full-speed cache, including 256KB of L2 cache.

The Athlon XP 2000+ was built using a 0.18-micron manufacturing process; AMD expects to move its chips to the 0.13 process in March, the company said.

Intel has also officially launched its first 845 chipset supporting DDR (double data rate) memory, adding to its support of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) and RDRAM (Rambus DRAM).

The Athlon XP 2000+ is priced at $US339, while Intel's 2.2GHz Pentium 4 sells for $562. Intel also launched a 0.13-micron version of its 2GHz chip with 512KB of cache, priced at $364. All prices are based on 1000-unit quantities, a standard volume of chip sales.

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