AMD unveils low-cost processors

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is taking aim at Intel's budget-priced Celeron processor with the launch of its new low-priced Sempron CPUs for desktops and notebooks.

AMD is unveiling the new 32-bit chips Wednesday and expects vendors will begin shipping in the U.S. low-priced systems based on them by the third quarter of this year.

AMD designed the Sempron processor to replace the Athlon XP, the company's seventh-generation processor. The Sempron immediately replaces the discontinued Duron, the low-cost chip the company still sells in some emerging markets. AMD based the Sempron chips either on the seventh-generation Athlon XP core or on the eighth-generation Athlon 64 core, although none of the chips have the 64-bit capabilities of the Athlon 64.

The basic computing needs of consumers and business users are changing as multimedia capabilities become an intrinsic part of PCs, says Bahr Mahony, AMD's mobile marketing manager. Users around the world who once needed a PC for only word processing or Web surfing are discovering Internet gaming, digital video, and music downloads, he says.

However, those same users have no need for the 64-bit capabilities provided by the Athlon 64, and aren't willing to pay a premium for that technology, Mahony says. AMD designed Sempron to provide a little more performance than some of AMD's older value processors, but at prices that will keep basic PC costs as low as possible, he adds.

Seven new desktop chips

AMD is releasing both desktop and notebook versions of Sempron. Hewlett-Packard and Acer will release systems worldwide with Sempron processors in the third quarter, Mahony says. The chips will be available in systems from multiple vendors by the fourth-quarter holiday shopping season, he adds.

AMD also hopes the chips will outperform Intel's Celeron processors, Mahony says. Just like Celeron, Sempron chips are virtually the same as their full-featured Pentium 4 counterparts, but come with less cache for storing frequently accessed data close to the processor.

AMD based six of the new Sempron desktop chips on the seventh-generation Athlon XP core and one on its eighth-generation technology. The six chips using the seventh-generation core support a 333-MHz frontside bus and include 256KB of Level 2 cache, half the amount of Level 2 cache found on the Athlon XP chips. They range in clock speed from 1.5 GHz to 2 GHz and will carry model number ratings of 2200+ to 2800+. The 2200+ and 2300+ target only emerging markets.

The single Sempron desktop chip using AMD's eighth-generation technology will come with several features that Celeron processors lack, including the No Execute virus protection technology enabled by Microsoft's forthcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2 and the Hypertransport interconnect technology. It runs at 1.6 GHz and comes with 256KB of Level 2 cache, less than the 1MB of Level 2 cache on some Athlon 64 chips or the 512KB on the Newcastle Athlon 64 chips. That earned this chip a model number rating of 3100+.

Five notebook CPUs

Five mobile Sempron chips will make their way into low-cost notebook systems over the course of this year, Mahoney says. AMD will have two categories of mobile Sempron chips based on power consumption. One category of mobile for full-size notebooks will consume 62 watts of power under maximum conditions, and a separate category for thin-and-light notebooks will consume 25w under maximum conditions.

The mobile chips use the Athlon 64 core, but do not have the 64-bit capabilities.

The 2600+ and 2800+ processors in each category run at 1.6 GHz, but the higher-rated processor comes with an additional 128KB of Level 2 cache for a total of 256KB. The 3000+ processor in the 62w category runs at 1.8 GHz and comes with 128KB of Level 2 cache.

Australian pricing is yet to be announced.

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