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AMD's new FX chip kicks up speed, price

Company will also certify certain third-party PC fan and liquid cooling systems designed to help the chip run faster than its rated speed.

Advanced Micro Devices' latest 3D chip is designed for PC game enthusiasts who need speed and have bank accounts large enough to pay for it.

The chipmaker's new Athlon 64 FX-57, released Monday, is priced at $1,031. The chip runs at a clock speed of 2.8GHz and includes 1MB of level-two computer memory cache, which helps with rendering graphic-intensive video games like "Half-Life 2" and running labor-intensive applications such as computer-aided design.

The FX-57 is a follow on to AMD's Athlon 64 FX-55, which runs at 2.6GHz and costs $827.

So far, AMD has identified close to 40 second-tier PC makers in North America, including Alienware, VoodooPC and Boxx, that have signed up to put the new FX-57 in their systems.

Despite the performance improvements, the processor could be the last single-core processor in AMD's FX series. Both AMD and rival Intel have set themselves on a path to switch their processor products from single-core to dual-core technology, which entails placing two computer processors on one piece of silicon.

Jonathan Seckler, AMD's Athlon 64 product marketing manager, told CNET News.com that Athlon FX series processors will continue to ship with just one core for at least 12 months to 18 months. If AMD follows its current course, its Athlon 64 FX-59 processor should be the next processor in the family to be announced.

"Our strategy is to continue with single-core processors in the foreseeable future as long as the need is still there," he said, noting that the majority of video games for the PC are written to take advantage of single-core technology.

To help PC enthusiasts with their game play, Seckler said, AMD will also be "clock-unlocking" the Athlon FX-57 and certifying certain third-party PC fan and liquid cooling systems that are designed to help increase the performance of the chip and help it run faster than its rated speeds.

How fast is fast? At a recent gathering of PC game enthusiasts, many liquid-cooled systems were able to push a standard Athlon FX-55 2.6GHz processor to speeds close to 5GHz.

The process, often referred to as overclocking, generally is not endorsed by chip manufacturers, and AMD says that it is not in fact promoting the practice. Rather, the company, in recognition that some people will overclock regardless, is certifying certain third-party systems in an effort to minimize damage to its chips. Revving up any chip beyond its posted rate invalidates the warranty.

In the meantime, AMD said it is seeding its dual-core processor economy with its recently launched AMD Athlon 64 X2. The chip is designed for semi-professional movie makers and digital media enthusiasts, as well as for people who run many software applications simultaneously.