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AMD unveils new generation of cheap notebook chips

Advanced Micro Devices releases two new lines of microprocessors for notebooks, and Intel will follow with new portable chips in a few days.

Advanced Micro Devices released two new lines of microprocessors for notebooks this week, and Intel will follow with new portable chips in a few days.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chipmaker released the K6-2+ and K6-3+ microprocessors this week. The chips--which run at 450, 475 and 500 MHz--are enhanced versions of AMD's K6-2 and K6-3 families.

Rather than market these processors for both desktops and notebooks, AMD will concentrate on portables with these chips. A notebook version of its touted Athlon chip will appear toward the end of the year, the company said.

Among major manufacturers, Hewlett-Packard has already announced a K6-2+ notebook that, after rebates, sells for $999.

The chips come at heady times for the chipmaker, which has been experiencing rising profits and greater customer acceptance. Consumer notebooks have been a particularly successful area, with AMD rivaling Intel for market share, according to various studies.

"We are currently doing almost everything right," chief executive officer Jerry Sanders said last week.

According to sources, rival Intel will come out with a 700-MHz Pentium III for high-end notebooks next week and a 550-MHz Celeron for less-expensive portables. New Celerons for desktops running at 633 MHz and 667 MHz also will arrive. Both HP and IBM will announce notebooks with the 700-MHz Pentium III.

The new AMD chips differ from their predecessors in that they are manufactured on the 0.18-micron manufacturing process, which means that certain elements inside the chip measure 0.18 microns wide. Earlier chips contained larger 0.25-micron elements.

Shrinking the chip components brings several advantages. Electrons have to travel shorter distances, which means less heat, which in turn allows the manufacturer to crank up chip speeds. Smaller chips also cost less to produce.

Another advantage to the smaller elements is that AMD can integrate the secondary cache, a memory reservoir for data, onto the K6-2. The K6-2+ contains 128KB of integrated secondary cache. Older K6-2s contain more cache, but it exists on separate chips, making it less efficient and more expensive.

The K6-3+ contains 256KB of secondary cache; the two chips are identical, but only half of the cache is activated on the K6-2+.

In volume quantities, the 500-MHz K6-2+ sells for $112, while the 475-MHz and 450-MHz versions sell for $98 and $85, respectively. The 500-MHz K6-3+ sells for $184, and the 475- and 450-MHz versions sell for $162 and $140, respectively.