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AMD, ATI squeeze new juice into laptops

Advanced Micro Devices delivers its Sempron 3000+, while ATI unveils two new Mobility Radeon X graphics chips.

Notebook PCs received a silicon shot in the arm on Tuesday, in the form of new chips from two major manufacturers.

Advanced Micro Devices officially unveiled its Sempron 3000+, while ATI Technologies introduced a pair of Mobility Radeon X series graphics chips.

Collectively, the chips promise to inject more performance into two different types of notebooks. AMD's Sempron 3000+ and ATI's Mobility Radeon X300 graphics chip will add juice to thin-and-light notebooks, which typically weigh about five pounds. ATI is also offering a new Mobility Radeon X800 graphics chip for high-end game-oriented notebooks.

AMD created Sempron-brand chips for desktops priced below $550 and for notebooks under $1,000. The processor line can plug into the same types of motherboards used by AMD's higher performance and costlier Athlon 64 processors, allowing manufacturers to create a single PC model but offer it in a range of prices by toggling between the processors and tweaking other features, such as graphics, memory allotments and hard drive sizes.

The chipmaker also divides its notebook processor lines by the size and weight of the machines for which they are intended. Thus, it markets one line of Sempron chips for so-called desktop replacement notebooks, which typically weigh between seven and 10 pounds and offer screens up to 17-inches wide. It markets another for thin-and-light notebooks that weigh around five pounds and often come with 14-inch or 15-inch screens. The new Sempron 3000+ lists for $134.

The Sempron 3000+ chip is available now worldwide. However, AMD said, the first notebook models with it will come out in Europe. Packard Bell will offer its EasyNote E6 notebook with the chip in countries such as France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom later this month. Gericom is planning to offer the new Sempron in its Blockbuster Advance Excellent 7000 notebook in Germany this month, AMD said in a statement. Acer, Fujitsu Siemens and Sharp are among the other manufacturers that are offering the chip.

ATI's new chips are an addition to its Mobility Radeon X line of graphics processors for notebooks. The Mobility Radeon incorporates relatively new technologies, including the PCI Express interface for graphics cards and Microsoft's DirectX 9 graphics software.

The Mobility Radeon X300 aims for thin-and-light notebooks and is likely to come out in the more expensive models at first. The Mobility Radeon X800, meanwhile, is designed for gaming notebooks and thus offers extras such as the ability to interface with up to 256MB of dedicated video memory.

The Mobility Radeon X800 will be released in December. Some of the first PC makers to offer it will include Alienware and Eurocom, ATI said in a statement.

The company did not offer an exact date for when its X300 chip will arrive in notebooks, saying instead that it will come in a number of future designs. That's likely because notebook chipsets--the chips that move data around inside a PC--have yet to incorporate PCI Express. Several PCI Express chipsets for portable machines, including ones from ATI and Intel, are expected early next year. This, in turn, will spawn thin-and-light notebooks with the X300 chip, an ATI representative said.

The X800 chip, meanwhile, is likely to be used in notebooks based on desktop PC chipsets, which is commonplace among larger-size game-oriented laptops.