Advanced Micro Devices Inc. last week announced two faster Athlon processors but said the chips wont be available until late next month.
The touting of the Athlon XP 2700+ and 2800+ chips seven weeks before their scheduled release was at odds with the typical timing of AMDs previous product announcements, which usually coincided with the release of new processors. The early unveiling fueled speculation that the company is feeling pressure from Intel Corp., which is set to release a 3GHz Pentium 4 in coming weeks.
Over the past year, Intel has accelerated its release of faster chips, forcing AMD to boost the speed of its processors. But analysts contend that the Athlon XP architecture is running out of headroom and that AMD is finding it difficult to increase its performance.
"Theres some flag-waving going on here, with AMD contending they can still push up their speeds," said Mike Feibus, an analyst with TechKnowledge Strategies Inc., in Scottsdale, Ariz. "But Intel is able to push up the clock rate on the Pentium 4 almost at will right now, and the general perception has been that Athlon XP is running out of steam."
Officials with AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., last week said the companys top-performing 2800+ will be offered only in limited-edition PCs targeted at desktop enthusiasts and gamers late next month, indicating that non-OEM orders wont be filled until December.
AMD contends its 2800+ will offer data throughput gains of up to 25 percent over its current speed leader, the 2600+. That is due in large part to the 333MHz FSB (front-side bus) featured on both the 2700+ and 2800+, an increase over the 266MHz FSB found on current high-end Athlon XPs.
AMDs 2700+ and 2800+ will cost $349 and $397, respectively, said officials.
In keeping with its effort to eliminate gigahertz-to- gigahertz comparisons between Athlon XPs and Pentium 4s, AMD did not release the frequencies at which its newest chips operate. In general, AMD contends its 2800+ operates as fast as a 2.8GHz processor, although the chips actual clock rate is speculated to run at slightly more than 2GHz.
Intels fastest chip on the market is a 2.8GHz Pentium 4, but the Santa Clara, Calif., company said it will ship a 3GHz version in time for the holidays.