The Duron processor, a version of the Athlon chip for consumer PCs, will come out during the week of June 12, according to sources close to AMD. The chip will initially run at 600 MHz, 650 MHz and 700 MHz, while a version running at 750 MHz will follow.
Just as important, the chip will be competitive with prices on Intel's Celeron chip. The 600 MHz is expected to sell for about $89, while the 650-MHz and 700-MHz versions will sell for about $115 and $159, respectively.
Intel is slated to release new Celeron chips running at 633 MHz, 667 MHz and 700 MHz during the last week of June. Judging by Intel's recent price cuts, these chips will be priced close to, or slightly higher than, those matched with Duron.
The price issue has been the target of speculation because of the current architecture of Athlon, which is fairly large. The larger the chip, the more it costs to make and the less likely that computer makers will be excited about adopting it.
A substantial portion of the size differences can be attributed to cache, or memory that is integrated into the processor. The Athlon contains 128KB of primary cache, compared with 32KB found on Intel's Celeron and Pentium IIIs. Current Athlons, meanwhile, contain no integrated secondary cache, while the Celerons and Pentium III do.
To keep costs low, Duron will include only 128KB of primary cache and 64KB of secondary, integrated cache, according to sources. Overall, this gives Duron slightly more cache than Celeron but without a significant size penalty. The chip likely will measure less than 110 square millimeters, speculated Kevin Krewell, an analyst at MicroDesign Resources, close to the 106 square millimeters of recent Celerons and Pentium IIIs.
"Duron will allow AMD to compete very effectively with Intel's Celeron in both price and performance," he wrote in a report today.
Right now, AMD is riding a crest of popularity and financial success. The company reported record profits of $189 million last quarter and has not hit any major manufacturing snags--a once chronic problem--since the debut of Athlon last year. And while the company is currently facing a processor shortage, the shortage is hitting rival Intel much harder.
"Right now, the only problem we see with AMD's manufacturing is 'Will they have enough?'" said Dean McCarron, principal at Mercury Research. A slight motherboard shortage may exist at launch, but nothing out of the ordinary.
McCarron and various chip dealers, however, added that the exact date of the release and the prices could easily change in the next month. Duron and the future Celerons were initially due in April, sources said. Both companies, though, extended their deadlines in the face of the chip shortage.
Like Celeron, Duron is also blessed with an inscrutable name. Celeron turned out to also be the name of an 18th-century French explorer and the birthplace of Lucille Ball. Duron, by contrast, is the name of a maker of industrial cement floors in Canada.