AMD has started shipping an Athlon 64 X2 processor that is considerably cheaper than its previous dual-core chips, it announced today.

The company hopes to bring dual-core computing to the mainstream consumer, it said, although the new processor is still aimed primarily at PC enthusiasts and those who run multiple processor-intensive applications simultaneously.

The Athlon 64 X2 3800+ is available to PC makers for $354 (about £200) in bulk purchases of 1,000 or more. The chips started shipping today and will be in shops shortly, according to Mari Hayashi, an AMD spokeswoman in Tokyo.

Dual-core chips are the latest innovation from AMD and its main rival, Intel. They contain two processor cores on a single piece of silicon, and each processor can handle tasks such as editing video and burning discs independently, improving overall performance, according to the chip makers.

AMD's initial dual-core line-up, announced in May, was considerably more expensive than the 3800+ chip. The top end 4800+ model was priced at $1,001 (about £565) for volume purchases and the least expensive 4200+ processor cost $537 (about £300), the company said at the time.

The 3800+ is cheaper because it run at a lower frequency, Hayashi said. Both run at 2GHz, compared to 2.2GHz for the 4200+, she said.