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AMD, Intel trot out new chips

The chipmakers release new versions of their Athlon and Celeron chips, respectively--moves that come amid a new slump in the PC market.

Advanced Micro Devices on Monday released a new version of its Athlon processor, while Intel plans to speed up its Celeron chip--moves that come amid a new slump in the PC market.


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Athlon:
Thoroughbred leaves the gate

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD unfurled the Athlon XP 2200+, a desktop chip that was code-named Thoroughbred and runs at 1.8GHz. Fujitsu-Siemens has adopted the chip for the European market, while Hewlett-Packard will come out with Pavilion and Compaq Presario computers for the consumer market containing the chip June 12, according to AMD.

A dual-processor version of Thoroughbred for servers and workstations, however, has been delayed until the second half of the year, said an AMD representative. It had been expected this quarter.

The 2200+ chip is AMD's first desktop processor manufactured with a 130-nanometer or 0.13 micron process. The move from the 2100+'s 180 nanometer, or 0.18 micron, construction will allow AMD to boost speed and reduce power and manufacturing costs on the 2200+ and future chips.

AMD's first 130-nanometer chips, mobile Athlon XP processors, were introduced last April.

Intel, meanwhile, is releasing a 1.8GHz Celeron for inexpensive computers.

The chips come out after announcements that the PC market has stumbled again. Last Thursday, Intel lowered its revenue expectations for the quarter because of slower-than-expected demand in Europe and a shift toward less-expensive processors.

PC sales at U.S. retailers had shown improvements between January and March, but they fell off dramatically in April, dropping 22.5 percent from April 2001, according to researcher NPD Techworld. Concurrently, inventories have risen, prompting price cuts.

The performance crown
Although the new Athlon XP and the Celeron run at the same speed, the two chips will be targeted at different segments of the market. Athlons generally are marketed against Intel's Pentium 4 for mainstream and performance PCs, while Celerons are aimed toward budget boxes.

While Athlons don't churn as many computing cycles per second (measured by megahertz) as Pentium 4 chips, they perform more work per cycle. The Athlon XP 2200+, therefore, is more evenly matched against a 2.2GHz Pentium 4, say analysts.

Because of the megahertz mismatch, consumers are "actually better off looking at the model number," for a measure of the chip's performance, Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research, said in a previous interview.

Still, because Intel has already come out with 2.4MHz and 2.53MHz Pentium 4s, the chipmaker holds the overall performance crown. AMD had claimed the upper hand in performance at various times from 1999 through 2001. But now, with Pentium 4's clock speed gains, there's no question that "the performance pendulum has swung back to Intel," McCarron said.

The Athlon XP 2200+ is AMD's first desktop chip made on the 130-nanometer manufacturing process, which means the chips are smaller, faster and less expensive to manufacture than their predecessors, which contained features measuring 180 nanometers on average. The chip costs $241 in 1,000-unit quantities but will likely sell for less because of discounts AMD provides to distributors and PC manufacturers.

AMD earlier released a version of Thoroughbred 130 for the notebook market.

Intel's new Celeron is the company's second version of that product line to be based around the architecture of the Pentium 4. Until recently, Celerons relied on a processing core from the Pentium III. Intel converted the Celeron line to Pentium 4 with the 1.7GHz Celeron in May.

Hewlett-Packard will be the first PC manufacturer to offer the Athlon XP 2200+.

On Monday, HP's Compaq brand began offering the new chip in Presario 8000 desktops sold directly to customers. A Presario 8000 with the new chip starts at about $1,250. When configured with 256MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, DVD and CD-Rewritable drives and a 17-inch monitor, it sells for about $2,100.

HP will start selling Pavilion PCs with the chip on Wednesday, the company said.

News.com's John Spooner contributed to this report.