AMD seeks desktop business with efficient chips

AMD launches energy-efficient versions of its desktop processors to compete with Intel.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is hoping to take a bite out of Intel's market share by selling energy-efficient versions of its desktop processors.

This month, the company will release energy-efficient versions of three chip designs: the Athlon 64 X2 dual core and the Athlon 64 and Sempron single cores.

The new chips would cost about 5 per cent more than AMD's standard desktop chips, but customers would make up that difference through electricity savings, division market manager for the desktop division, David Schwarzbach, said.

AMD hopes to use these chips to duplicate the success of its Opteron chip for servers and workstations. Opteron sales have made the difference this spring in pushing AMD to post strong quarterly earnings of $US185 million in April, and driving Intel to post a drop in quarterly profit to $US1.3 billion.

Many analysts expect Intel to regain its advantage when it launches its 65-nanometer Core 2 Duo chips this summer, including the Woodcrest chip for servers and Conroe chip for desktops. These AMD chips were built on a larger, 90-nanometer geometry, but offer better power efficiency, the company said.

Running at top speed, AMD's standard desktop processors draw 89W, while the new line of energy-efficient chips will need either 65W or 35W, depending on the model.

PC vendors could use the chips to design smaller, quieter computers, since the improved performance-per-watt means they can use smaller, slower fans for cooling.

"The heat, acoustics and fan speed all decrease. That is key whether IT managers are taking care of a fleet of systems, or people are trying to fit an unobtrusive PC into their living room or bedroom," Schwarzbach said.

The new designs could include set-top boxes, PC blades, or digital home PCs. Another option is the modulated system, a design that splits the computer into two parts: a small I/O port on the user's desktop and a processing module located on a nearby bookshelf or closet.

That approach could save space in cramped office cubicles and allow IT administrators to easily manage more computers, he said. Companies such as ClearCube Technology already sell similar products.

AMD will ship 11 models of three energy-efficient chip designs later this month, and expects vendors to bring computers to market by June.

The 65-watt processors will include six types of Athlon 64 X2 dual core processor: model numbers 4800+ ($US671), 4600+ ($US601), 4400+ ($US514), 4200+ ($US417), 4000+ ($US353) and 3800+ ($US323).

The 35W processor will include one type of Athlon 64 X2 dual core chip, the model 3800+ ($US364), one type of Athlon 64 single core, model 3500+ ($US231), and three types of Sempron, models 3400+ ($US145), 3200+ ($US119) and 3000+ ($US101).

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Ben Ames

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