AMD launches mobile Athlon 4 processor

The new mobile Athlon 4, which was known formerly by the codename Palomino, will be launched with four versions running at 850MHz, 900MHz, 950MHz and 1GHz. The fastest part matches archrival Intel's highest performing mobile chip in terms of clock speed, a 1GHz mobile Pentium III.

AMD also launched two new models of its Duron processor at 800MHz and 850MHz, and said it has extended its PowerNow technology to this family of processors, which are aimed at cost-conscious buyers. PowerNow is designed to extend the battery life of notebooks by allowing the processor to reduce its clock speed and voltage when the machine is away from a mains outlet.

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 Pentium III mobile chips. However, 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, while Intel's SpeedStep technology essentially allows a processor to move back and forth between 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."

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 Giga Information Group Inc. "Intel sets its own specifications," he said. "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 bit 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 mobile Athlon 4 1GHz chip is priced $US425, the 950MHz is $US350, the 900MHz is $US270 and the 850MHz is $US240, AMD said. The mobile Duron is priced at $US197 for the 850MHz version and $US170 for the 800MHz processor. All prices are for 1000-unit quantities, a standard unit of measurement for chip sales.

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