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New chips for low-cost PCs

Cyrix and SGS Thomson are making new processors for consumer computers that unite system functions and multimedia features on a single processor.

Cyrix and SGS Thomson today announced new processors for consumer computers that unite system functions and multimedia features on a single processor.

The products from both companies are highly integrated yet inexpensive processors that strive to put many of the main PC functions on one chip. Both outdo Intel processors in technology integration and price.

The new Cyrix MediaGX processor upgrades the speed for an existing chip line, allowing manufacturers to targets consumer PCs costing below $1,000 with a complete multimedia system and monitor. SGS Thomson's new ST PC Consumer chip targets a whole new class of electronic devices, not only affordable PCs but also PC-TVs and possibly network computers as well.

Texas-based Cyrix designs and manufacturers Intel-compatible processors for desktop and portable computers. Generally, the company has competed with manufacturers like AMD for the consumer end of the processor market.

The newest additions to the Cyrix MediaGX processor line are 166- and 180-MHz versions based on the company's MediaGX multimedia architecture. The 180-MHz chip is being used in Compaq's Presario 2200 PC, also announced today. To date, Cyrix has not offered speeds greater than 150 MHz.

The 166- and 180-MHz MediaGX processors, along with their supporting 5510 chip, cost $88 and $121 in large quantities, significantly below comparable chips from Intel, which are priced above $250 and $300. The 150- and 133-MHz versions of the MediaGX are even cheaper, priced at $75 and $63 respectively in batches of 1,000. Intel chips in this performance range cost above $100.

Meanwhile, SGS Thomson's new processor is seeking a different consumer computer market. The chip could find its way into smaller, cheaper x86-based computers than the Cyrix chips. By integrating most of circuitry of a full-sized PC into a single chip, the French company has delivered an intriguing new addition to the consumer electronics market.

The ST PC Consumer chip is a single processor containing all the functions needed to develop low-cost, PC-based consumer systems, according to the company. The chip is the first in a series SGS Thomson will create to address specific devices such as network computers, Web browsers, and industrial control systems whose manufacturers would like to use Windows operating systems.

The processor itself will be priced below $40 in large volumes, compared to more than $80 for equivalent chips. Such a price reduction is significant for consumer electronics makers producing low-cost computers such as Internet set-top boxes, Internet TVs, and games consoles that run PC titles.