AMD's Duron chip leaps to laptops

Advanced Micro Devices is offering its first mobile processor based on its Athlon technology, but with a twist.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
Advanced Micro Devices is offering its first mobile processor based on its Athlon technology, but with a twist.

The new mobile Duron chip, targeted at notebooks priced at $1,800 and less, will arrive this week at speeds of 600MHz and 700MHz.

It comes earlier and in a somewhat different form than had been expected. The new chip is based on the current Duron processor core, known as Spitfire. The company had indicated its first mobile Duron would be based on the forthcoming Morgan processor core, due next quarter.

AMD officials offered a mea culpa and an explanation, saying the mobile Duron was inadvertently left off of the company's processor roadmap distributed at the Comdex trade show in November.

Regardless of its origin, the new mobile chip marks a significant milestone for AMD and the growth of its Athlon chip technology. The Duron is the first mobile chip based on AMD's Athlon processor technology. Duron is a lower-cost derivative of AMD's Athlon chip.

NEC will be the first to offer the new chip, in a notebook slated to ship Jan. 25 in Japan only. Other PC makers are expected to adopt the chip.

NEC's notebook, dubbed LaVie U, should be a good representation of things to come in North America, AMD officials said. The machine will offer a 13-inch or 14-inch screen, a 20GB hard drive and a CD-rewritable drive.

"We have one customer that announced on Monday...but we expect that additional (PC makers) will follow later this quarter," said Martin Booth, product marketing manager for AMD mobile products.

The chip, a modified desktop processor, has been tweaked to reduce power consumption for notebooks.

The chip "is not a major redesign," Booth said. "But it's been tweaked to get the current processor down into the mobile envelope. It is operating at a thermal power that fits inside a mainstream notebook and will offer a competitive battery life."

Notebooks with the chip, which sports a 1.4V core, as opposed to the 1.6V core of the desktop Duron, should deliver two to three hours of battery life, Booth said.

Additionally, the new mobile Duron offers the same traits that make its desktop cousin a good performer. The chip sports 192KB of cache memory, including a 64KB Level 2 cache and AMD's 200MHz front-side bus. AMD says the bus, which provides a data pathway from the processor to memory and other internal components, is the fastest available in a notebook. Rival Intel's mobile chips support a 100MHz bus.

The new mobile Duron is priced at $75 for the 600MHz chip and $123 for the 700MHz.

While it is the first mobile Athlon derivative, the new Duron will not be the last. AMD is preparing a pair of new chips based on Mustang, its more mobile-friendly core. The first chip, code-named Palomino, will be sold as a mobile Athlon. It is expected to be introduced later this quarter in a range of speeds around 900MHz.

The follow-up to the new mobile Duron will be a second-generation mobile Duron chip, known as Morgan. It is due to arrive in the next quarter.