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HP lets some Athlon64 specs out of the bag

Hewlett-Packard reveals some of the specs for Advanced Micro Devices' upcoming Athlon64 chip, which HP seems to be preparing to use in its PCs.

Hewlett-Packard apparently slipped up and revealed some of the specifications for Advanced Micro Devices' upcoming Athlon64 chip, a processor that HP seems to be preparing to use in its PCs.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer maker posted technical specifications for a desktop computer to its site this week, and one of the features is an Athlon64 3100+ chip. The chip runs at 1.8GHz and comes with 1MB of cache, a pool of memory that's integrated into the processor for rapid data access, according to HP's technical documentation.

Following a series of delays, the Athlon64 is now set to debut in September. AMD has booked space at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center West, the site of numerous tech announcements, on Sept. 30, according to the Moscone Center's site. Neither HP nor AMD returned calls for comment.

Although the specifications, earlier reported at Web site AMD Zone, fit within the expected performance range for the chip, the 1.8GHz speed and 3100+ model number may begin to raise questions about AMD's ability to keep up with Intel. In 2001, AMD showed a slide at its analyst meeting that stated the Athlon64, then code-named Clawhammer, to be sold with a model number of 3400. That number serves as an indicator of the chip's general performance; a 3400 chip would outperform 3200 and 3100 chips.

If the chip debuts with a 3100+ number, its performance won't be as great as the 2001 expectations. The chip will also be rated below the 3200+ Athlon XP that AMD released earlier this month.

Intel, on the other hand, will soon ship a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 and is gearing up to ship its even faster Prescott chip, a revamped version of the Pentium 4, in the second half of the year.

The 3100+ number roughly corresponds to the megahertz speeds of the Pentium 4. However, the gap has begun to widen, with some benchmark sites noting that the 3200+ Athlon XP is more like a 3GHz or slightly slower Pentium 4.

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Then again, the 3100+ may be a midrange chip. AMD is expected to launch a range of Athlon64 processors in order to fit different price points. Some budget models will come with 256KB of cache, according to sources, while the performance-oriented chips will feature 1MB of cache, as do their server counterparts in the Opteron line.

If anything, the 3100+ rating and 1.8GHz speed fits with AMD's current capabilities. The Opteron topped out at 1.8GHz when it came out in April. A 2GHz version is expected soon.

The desktop described in HP's posting is called the t182k. It comes with a 3100+ Athlon64, a Via chipset, an 80GB hard drive, two optical drives and an Nvidia GeForce graphics chip. The machine can hold a maximum of 1GB of memory.

The model number indicates that the PC, if HP chooses to sell it, would be an entirely new family. The nomenclature does not fit with that of existing HP PCs.

Unlike the Pentium 4, the Athlon64 will run 32-bit software, found on desktops today, and 64-bit software, which is found on high-end desktops. The 64-bit feature, however, is expected to become useful only over time, as the software is just now being developed.