AMD puts Athlon pedal to the metal

While the chip maker plans to wait until Monday's launch to disclose the 760's benchmarking numbers, sources for AMD have said the new chip set will offer a significant boost in performance over existing Athlon-based systems.

Part of the reason is that AMD has taken the speed of the 760 chip set from 200MHz to 266MHz. Because processing speeds within AMD's fastest Athlon processors move at nearly triple that rate, any increase in the speed limit of the surrounding chip set will yield higher performance computing, according to those familiar with the technology.

Another improvement to be found with the 760 chip set is its support for faster memory. AMD, which has been quite open about its plans to adopt DDR SDRAM (double data rate synchronous DRAM), will begin shipping the high-speed memory technology in the 760 chip set, sources said.

DDR SDRAM transports data at twice the speed of the current 133MHz SDRAM, thus the term "double data rate."

In the quest for even more speed, sources said AMD is also looking into using RDRAM (Rambus DRAM) in future Athlon processors. While a more expensive memory solution that requires the user to pay licensing fees, RDRAM outpaces DDR SDRAM by a considerable margin.

Officials for Intel, which has been AMD's chief rival, said Friday that the company's next-generation Pentium IV processor will likely ship with RDRAM.

If Intel does go with RDRAM, commonly referred to as Rambus memory, AMD may have the upper hand as far as price competition between upcoming Athlon processors sporting the 760 chip set with DDR SDRAM and future Pentium IV processors, industry experts said.

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