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AMD boosts speed on notebook chips

Advanced Micro Devices unveils two new K6-2+ processors for laptops, which Hewlett-Packard has adopted for its consumer line.

Advanced Micro Devices unveiled two new K6-2+ processors for notebooks today, which Hewlett-Packard has adopted for its consumer line.

The new chips run at 550 and 533 MHz and will appear in HP's N3300 Pavilion notebooks, according to AMD. Both chips contain AMD's PowerNow technology, which reduces the amount of power the notebook consumes while idle.

June has been the month for notebooks. Last week, Intel released five new laptop chips, including two ultra-low voltage processors for mini-notebooks. Later this week at PC Expo, Transmeta is slated to demonstrate several notebooks containing its Crusoe microprocessor from major manufacturers.

The notebook market is attractive to processor manufacturers and computer makers for a number of reasons. The market is growing faster than the desktop market, fueled in part by price declines. Average notebook prices in certain markets declined by 32 percent in 1999, according to Victor Tsan, director of the Market Intelligence Center, an analyst firm based in Taipei. Notebooks selling for $999 and less after rebates have become more common on retailers' shelves.

Despite the price declines, however, margins are still higher on laptops than on other types of computers. Designs vary more among manufacturers, and notebook processors often sell for slightly more than their desktop counterparts.

For AMD, the K6-2+ line is crucial because the company will not release a mobile version of its high-end Athlon processor until the fourth quarter. Surprisingly, AMD did not release a new version of its K6-3+ chip, which contains more cache memory. Several sources have said that the chip, like the K6-3 before it, will be discontinued because of minimal commercial interest. Because the chip costs less, manufacturers who use AMD chips have generally gravitated toward the K6-2 family.

The 550-MHz K6-2+ in volume sells for $99, while the 533-MHz K6-2+ sells for $85.