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K6 chipset for cheap, fast PCs

AMD formally announces a new chipset for the upcoming K6 processor, which is expected to compete with the Pentium II processor from Intel.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) formally announced today a new chipset for the upcoming MMX-capable K6 processor, which is expected to compete with the Pentium II processor from Intel.

The chipset will allow AMD to deliver the building blocks for low-cost, high-performance PCs based on the K6 processor. The K6 processor is expected to be announced on April 3.

AMD says the AMD-640 chipset is compatible with a socket--the receptacle that a processor plugs into--that can accept a K6, Intel Pentium, or Cyrix 6x86 processor. By using the widely used, older "Socket 7" standard, AMD hopes to engender a market for low-cost, high-performance PCs.

The K6 is expected to ultimately reach clock speeds as high as 233 MHz. The Pentium II, successor to the Pentium Pro, is expected to ship in 233-MHz and 266-MHz versions. The Pentium II is expected to ship in May or June.

The K6 and the Pentium II both use MMX technology. MMX improves the performance of multimedia applications such as graphics- and communications-intensive programs.

Intel, an investor in CNET: The Computer Network, uses a different type of socket for its newest processors. This socket requires a redesign of the PC's main circuit board.

The new chipset will offer support for high-performance data transfer in multimedia applications through technology such as Ultra DMA/33. AMD says the chipset will also feature new power management technology from Microsoft and Intel called ACPI, or Advanced Configuration and Power Interface.

AMD says volume production and shipments of the AMD-640 will begin in the second quarter at a price of $30.60 each in 1,000 unit quantities.

Separately, the company also said several German PC companies would agree to use the K6 processor. "There will be an announcement in Munich on April 4," Dirk Heinen, an AMD product manager, told Reuters at the CeBIT computer trade fair there.

Heinen declined to name the German companies that will use K6. But many of the first K6 PCs would come from PC makers that sell mostly to consumers, not businesses.

Heinen also said four of the world's top ten PC makers were interested in K6, which will be ready in the second quarter. "They might not use it right out the chute, but we think our chances are pretty good for later this year," he said.

K6 is a critical product for AMD. It suffered several quarterly losses in 1995 and 1996 after its K5 chip was hit by development delays. By the time K5 was ready, Intel had already produced still faster chips and few PC makers were interested.

Reuters contributed to this report.