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Notebooks get more Ath-letic

AMD launches mobile 1GHz Athlon 4 processor

AMD today launched the first mobile version of its Athlon processor, along with faster versions of its mobile Duron processor for low-cost notebooks.

The new mobile Athlon 4, formerly known by the codename Palomino, will be launched in four versions: 850MHz, 900MHz, 950MHz and 1GHz. The fastest matches archrival Intel's fastest mobile chip, the mobile PIII 1GHz, for clock speed.

AMD also launched two new models of its Duron processor (800MHz and 850MHz), and says it has extended its PowerNow technology to this family of processors, aimed at cost-conscious buyers. PowerNow is designed to extend the battery life of notebooks by allowing the processor to reduce clock speed and voltage when the machine is running on battery power.

By offering PowerNow with both its Athlon and Duron processors, AMD hopes to gain an edge over market-leader Intel. Intel uses a comparable power-saving technology called Speedstep on its newest PIII mobile chips, but Speedstep is not available with Intel's low-cost family of mobile Celeron processors.

In addition, PowerNow allows notebook makers to set their processors so that they can fluctuate between as many as 32 levels of power consumption, as opposed to Intel's Speedstep technology which essentially allows a processor to move back and forth between only two preset levels. Most notebook makers will probably use only between 8 and 16 levels, said Gary Baum, AMD director of mobile marketing.

"It dynamically changes voltage and frequency consistent with the demand on the CPU," Baum said. "That way it extends battery life, yet it delivers the performance you need." This is similar in essence to Transmeta's Crusoe chip.

Listening to what notebook OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) want instead of telling them what they want will serve AMD well, said Rob Enderle, a research fellow with analyst firm Giga Information Group. "Intel sets its own specifications," he said, "[but] AMD is listening more to the OEMs, so they're designing their parts much more specifically to what the OEMs want."

Listening to OEMs might not be enough to take a bite out of Intel's market share, however. AMD's biggest challenge will be in persuading notebook makers to use the new processor, Enderle said. Vendors who choose to offer the new part are likely to see strong demand for the product, Enderle predicted.

The 1GHz mobile Athlon 4 chip is a shade under £300, with the 850MHz down at around £170, AMD said. The mobile Duron is priced at around £139 for the 850MHz version. All prices are for 1,000-unit quantities, a standard unit of measurement for chip sales.


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