AMD to ship dual-core Neo, Istanbul this quarter

AMD's upcoming laptop and server chips could boost competition with Intel

Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday said it would ship new laptop and server processors later this quarter, which should up the ante in its competition with rival chip maker Intel.

AMD will ship new dual-core Athlon Neo processors for ultrathin laptops and Istanbul chips for servers to system builders toward the end of the second quarter, AMD executives said on an earnings conference call Tuesday. The chips will appear in systems early in the following quarter.

The dual-core Neo chip is an update of the single-core Neo chip that AMD launched in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Neo chips are power-efficient processors designed for sub-notebooks that can deliver full functionality at affordable prices, AMD says. AMD fits Neo into a category of PCs it calls "ultrathin" laptops, which falls between ultraportable and netbook laptops. Ultraportables are too expensive, while netbooks, though cheap, provide limited PC experience, AMD contends.

The dual-core Neo will be part of the Congo platform, and it will deliver better performance and integrated graphics capabilities than its predecessors. The single-core Neo is used by Hewlett-Packard in its Pavilion dv2 laptop, which has a 12.1-inch screen and is priced at US$750.

The updated Neo chips could potentially face competition from Intel's upcoming low-power processors - also called CULV processors - which could be launched later this quarter. Dodging questions about how the Neo chips will compete against CULV processors, AMD CEO Dirk Meyer said the company has many design wins around Neo and is happy with the way chip development is progressing.

The launch of Congo is one example where AMD is taking advantage of the PC market's growth areas, while also reacting swiftly to threats by Intel, wrote John Spooner, senior analyst at Technology Business Research, in a research note. During the call, Meyer said that laptop demands had returned to normal seasonal patterns.

AMD will ship the six-core Opteron processor code-named Istanbul in May, a month earlier than expected, with servers based on the chip appearing in June. The processor will be an upgrade from AMD's current quad-core Opteron chips code-named Shanghai. Further details about the Istanbul chip are expected at an AMD event on Wednesday.

The chips offer better performance while drawing the same amount of power as existing quad-core Shanghai server chips, AMD officials have said.

Servers with eight Istanbul chips could offer the processing power of up to 48 cores.

AMD has already demonstrated working models of Istanbul, and the chips will be manufactured using the 45-nanometer manufacturing process.

"This allows AMD to move into position for a stronger showing in the server space during the second half of the year," Spooner wrote.

AMD is in a continuous race with Intel to put more cores on chips to improve performance while drawing less power. Intel in 2010 will release the eight-core Nehalem EX processors, which will enable servers to have up to 64 cores. AMD plans to follow Istanbul with the 12-core chip code-named Magny-Cours in 2010.

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Agam Shah

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