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AMD Shrinks CPUs, Power Consumption

AMD today announced it has begun manufacturing Athlon 64 processors using a 65nm manufacturing process, which will yield greater energy efficiency and a more processors during manufacturing.

The change is just to the Athlon X2 line of processors for desktop computers and involves the dual core Athlon 64 X2 4000+, 4400+, 4800+, and 5000+ chips. They will be sold for the same prices as their 90nm counterparts and have the same A2 socket as the old chips.

Motherboards will require an update to the BIOS  to run the chips, but other than that, they will run the same as the older CPUs. The Opteron line of server processors will switch to 65nm next year. Coinciding with the new manufacturing process is a drop in power consumption. The new 65nm chips will consume 65 watts of power, a drop from the 89 watts consumed by some 90nm chips.

AMD is claiming that even at 90nm and 90 watts, its chips consumed half the power of an Intel Core 2 Duo, and that power consumption should drop further with the 65nm/65 watt chips. Still, David Schwarzbach, division marketing manager for desktops at AMD  admits home users aren't quite as power-conscious as IT shops. "To the end user, the 90nm vs. 65nm is not a feature that's a purchase criteria," he told internetnews.com.

There is actually one new feature in the 65 watt Athlon 64s, a power savings feature called C1E native to the core for more versatile power management. However, this will require new chipsets to utilize, and those will not be available until late in the first half of 2007, according to Schwarzbach.

The move to 65 nanometers is, however, a "continuation of our energy efficient strategy," he said. The AMD Athlon line is now entirely 65nm and 65 watts. The company expects to move off 90nm and 89 watt production as quick as possible through the first half of 2007.

The 65nm process means AMD can produce more processors, which is important because Athlon is AMD's best-selling part, and Dell's belated entry to the AMD world drained the pipeline, according to analyst Nathan Brookwood. "When Dell came on-stream in the third quarter, they started soaking up a lot of AMD chips and there have been complaints in the channel for the last month or two that AMD chips are hard to get unless you are a big OEM," he said.

The other benefit for customers, aside from easing shortages, is consumers will see a little less power draw than older generations of chips, said Brookwood.