With the release of its 64-bit processors in servers and desktops behind it, AMD
has set its sights on mainstream notebook computers with four new Athlon chips.
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based semiconductor maker began shipping its new Mobile AMD Athlon 64 processors 3200+, 3000+ and 2800+ (priced at $293, $233 and $193, respectively, in 1,000-unit quantities) to manufacturers. The
processors are Windows-compatible and include improved virus protection. The
company said security improvements planned for Microsoft Windows XP Service
Pack 2 (due in the second half of 2004) will take advantage of AMD64
AMD said its collaboration with Microsoft
could have made nearly half of the Microsoft Windows Security Updates and
patches in the last two years unnecessary for AMD64 users.
Despite a decision by some vendors hold off on 64-bit processors in their
repertoire, more than 60 manufacturers including HP
Fujitsu Siemens, Fujitsu, Packard Bell and eMachines, already support AMD’s
new chips. For example, the 3200+ began appearing in configure-to-order
Compaq Presario 8000Z desktop PCs back in November and as an option in
configure-to-order HP Pavilion a450e desktop PCs in December. Fujitsu
Siemens Computers and Fujitsu Ltd. said they would offer desktop systems
with the new chips immediately.
AMD also announced the its Athlon 64 processor 3400+ (priced at $417 in
1,000-unit quantities) for desktop PCs and desktop-replacement notebooks.
The company said the processor will be supported by HP’s configure-to-order
desktop PC line in early 2004. Not-so-whitebox manufacturers Voodoo PC and
Alienware have announced plans to offer high-performance notebooks based on
the AMD Athlon 64 processor 3400+ later this quarter.
All of the new processors are compatible with current wireless LAN
technologies including 802.11g
The choice to take 64-bit mobile is expected to increase the heat on AMD
whose only 64-bit family continues to be its
Itanium processor. AMD says its added advantage is that the Athlon 64
family is also backwards compatible with 32-bit applications. Intel is
reportedly working on a set of 64-bit extensions that would accomplish the
same objective, but the technology (code-named Yamhill) is not expected to
debut in Pentium chips until 2005.
“Because mobile customers increasingly use laptops for digital media
applications that demand incredibly high levels of performance, they are
increasingly concerned with premature obsolescence,” said Rob Enderle
principal analyst for the Enderle Group.
And while the number of 64-bit software applications is limited, AMD is
helping ISVs bring the technology mainstream by promoting its chips as the
answer to consumer’s prayers for better performance in digital media
products, from digital cameras to digital music players that topped their
wish lists in the recent holiday season. So far AMD has tacked on more than
250 infrastructure partners to support its AMD64 platform including CD and
DVD-burning firm Ahead Software and game developers
“People want more performance from their computers when it comes to
digital media applications,” said Jerome Rota, DivX Networks’ co-founder and
codec team lead. “We are optimizing our official video encoding product, Dr.
DivX, for the AMD64 platform and expect it to be available later this
quarter. With it, consumers can create DivX video from any source faster
than ever before because AMD64 technology can speed the process by as much
as 18 percent.”
At its baseline, Athlon 64 chips come with an integrated memory
controller — a 128-bit, dual-channel design supporting DDR266 and DDR333
SDRAM. The chips also offer support for SSE, SSE2, MMX, 3DNow! technology
and legacy x86 instructions. The chips also include AMD’s HyperTransport
technology to I/O devices complete with three links, 16-bits in each
direction. Each supports up to 1600 MT/s or 3.2 GB/s in each direction. Each
link can connect to an I/O device or another processor.
But to prevent users from getting 3rd-degree burns from all the heat a
64-bit chip might put out, AMD includes what it calls “Cool’n’Quiet”
technology. The idea is to work with AMD’s PowerNow! platform to
automatically adjust system power consumption when the chip is not running
on all cycles. The new mobile chips also run at 30 percent less power
consumption than AMD’s desktop Athlon 64 processor, the company said.