Intel Looks Ultra-Thin, AMD Goes Mainstream

Intel and AMD both kicked off the Computex show in Taiwan with additions to their microprocessor lines. For Intel, it’s a trio of new low power processors meant for the ultra-thin notebook market, while AMD is going after the mainstream and enthusiast desktop markets.

AMD (NYSE: AMD) is pushing new versions of its old Athlon brand, dubbed Athlon II, now made with the 45 nanometer process and supporting the newer technologies found in AMD’s Phenom II processor, the desktop chip that succeeded Athlon as the mainstream desktop part.

The Athlon II 250, as the part is known, will be a dual-core processor with faster HyperTransport interfaces, support for the AM3 socket (which supports DDR3 memory) and a bigger L2 cache, 2MB instead of 1MB in older models. All this is available for $87 in lots of 1,000, making it very affordable, notes Brent Barry, marketing manager in the Desktop group at AMD.

For more power-conscious users, AMD also announced the Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition. Black Edition chips do not have their cores locked, so overclockers (people who try to run their processors faster than specifications) have an easier time cranking up the speed — or reducing their CPU to magma.

The Phenom II X2 550 is a 45nm dual core optimized for enthusiasts that runs at 3.1GHz with the high-speed HyperTransport interface, 7MB of cache and AM3 support. New is AMD PowerNow 3.0 power management, which AMD claims will bring a 40 percent savings in power under heavy load and a 50 percent savings under light load or idle time.

“Our new 45nm architectures are really demonstrating world class performance, so regardless of where you choose to buy a product [in the product line], you get great performance and energy efficiency. We’re filling out all of our product stack to make sure they are accessible in all markets,” Barry told

Intel Eyes Ultra-Thin Notebooks

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is taking aim at the ultra-thin notebook market, perhaps trying to keep netbooks from cannibalizing it, but also because it realizes customers don’t like heavy notebooks. It surveyed notebook customers and found only 11 percent like to take their notebooks with them outside of the home, and weight was cited as the main reason.

When customers had an ultra-light portable device, that number jumped to 23 percent. “Usability, thin, light, that’s what appeals to consumers and what we think will change the way people use laptops today,” Uday Marty, director of product marketing in the Mobile Platforms Group at Intel said during a conference call yesterday.

To that end, Intel announced three new processors, the T9900, the P9700, and the P8800, along with the SU2700 Pentium ultra low voltage processor (keeping that brand name alive for another year) and the GS40 chipset to support them.

All are designed for “ultra-thin” laptops — that is, less than an inch thick and weighing two to five pounds. Intel also announced the addition of new devices that can now wirelessly connect using optional Intel’s My WiFi technology.

These processors are designed to run cooler than the standard volt processors, with thermal envelopes of around 10 watts instead of 25-35 watts. This makes it possible for them to live in extremely thin notebooks, run cooler and quieter, and have a longer battery life, up to seven hours.

However, the new processors are not crippled. The T9900 is a 3.06GHz processor. All come with Intel’s HD Boost for improved video playback, 6MB of L2 cache, advanced power management and an optimized cache.

The GS40 Express chipset is designed specifically for the ultra-thin laptop market and features Windows Vista/7 performance tuning, improved game play and software for high quality, high definition video playback. It also has an integrated HD/Blu-ray decoder and HDMI output support.

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