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Intel and AMD Keep Value Battle Alive

With their 64-bit chip war running at full tilt, rivals Intel and AMD are bolstering efforts on their value-priced lineups.

The two chips currently going head to head in this category are Intel's Celeron D 3xx family and AMD's Sempron 3100+. The Sempron uses the Socket 754 package of the previous-generation Athlon 64. The CPUs combine a lower overall cost with slightly less aggressive performance. The companies say it's still a great place to get some serious bang for the processor buck, and many gamers love the cost savings.

On Wednesday, Intel upped the ante for the holiday season with an announcement of a new Celeron D processor 340 and its corresponding Intel 910GL Express chipset.

While neither the Celeron D nor the Sempron are marketed as heavily as their Pentium and Athlon counterparts, they do have their following, especially in the overseas sectors and price-sensitive marketplaces. Last month, cell phone manufacturer LG said it would roll out MyPCs based on the Sempron microprocessors, for example.

"Intel has really catered to the corporate markets with Celeron, something AMD has been trying to break into for some time," Roger Kay, vice president of client computing at research firm IDC, told internetnews.com. "AMD does very well with smaller businesses, where they have decent representation, but they have not done as well in the larger areas."

And while both of these chips are relatively new in the channel, IDC's Kay said the first blush of Sempron sales compared to Celeron should appear in late October with full numbers available in November.

Intel Celeron D processors use a variant of the Prescott core, only with a smaller L2 cache and a lower bus speed. The latest entry uses 90-nanometer process technology and features a 256KB Level 2 cache (compared to 1-MB for the Pentium 4), a 533MHz system bus and a processor speed of 2.93GHz. This allows Intel to offer the Celeron D at high clock speeds and low prices, while not affecting sales on the higher-end Pentium 4 line.

The new processor is available in the mPGA478 and LGA775 packages, with the latter being compatible with the Intel 915 Express Chipset family. Intel also announced that its Celeron D processors (325, 330, and 335) support the LGA775 package for use with the Intel 915 Express Chipset family. Previous versions only worked with the 845 and 865 chipset families.

The corresponding 910GL Express chipset features the PCI Express bus architecture, a new, higher bandwidth bus technology providing fast data transfers, Intel High Definition Audio supporting 7.1 surround sound and the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 (Intel GMA 900).

AMD's Sempron 3100+ runs at a 1.8GHz default clock speed and is based on the AMD "Newcastle" core. Instead of 512K of L2 cache, it has been cut in half to 256K. Analysts suggest this is a bit better trade-off than the Celeron D to Pentium 4 comparison.

However critics noted that the original Athlon 64 core design features a full 1-MB of L2 cache. The rest of the design specifications features an integrated memory controller capable of up-to DDR400 speeds, and it uses a 200 MHz/1.6 GHz processor bus. The chip also supports single link -- up to 6.4 GB/sec per link I/O bandwidth and up to 9.6 GB/sec HyperTransport plus memory bandwidths, as well as a 1600 MHz system front side bus.

Unlike Intel, AMD uses third-party chipsets from nVidia, SiS and VIA for its support. The Sempron also uses 130nm SOI (silicon on insulator) technology.

AMD's Sempron 3100+ Socket 754 (1.8GHz) is priced at $126 in 1,000-unit quantities. The similarly matched Intel Celeron D processor 340 announced today is priced at $117. Intel is selling its 910GL chipset separately at $34.

Editor's note: Vince Freeman contributed to this report.



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