AMD has begun shipping faster versions of its Athlon and Duron processors and, according to industry sources, will officially launch them next Thursday. The chips are already on sale unboxed in some countries, but these are chips intended for PC makers.

The 1.4GHz Athlon chip will surpass AMD's current fastest Athlon processor, the 1.33GHz which was launched in March.

AMD also plans to raise the speed of its budget Duron processor from 900MHz to 950MHz. AMD declined to comment as to when the launches will happen, but the company has, conveniently, scheduled a press conference next week at the giant Computex computer trade show in Taiwan.

Intel might be feeling the pressure - its fastest Celeron chip runs at 850MHz. But in terms of clock speed AMD is still playing catch-up at the high end. Intel launched a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 processor in April and demonstrated a P4 running at 2GHz in Taiwan last month.