AMD to Roll Out Powerful, Energy-Efficient 65-nm Chips

The move to a 65-nm process is part of the preparation for the chip maker's native quad-core processors, which are due out later in 2007.

Advanced Micro Devices will start producing its processors using a 65-nanometer manufacturing process, which will give the company the ability to offer a more powerful, energy-efficient chip and pave the way for its quad-core product.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., chip maker made the announcement Dec. 5, saying it will begin shipping the first of these redesigned processors later this month.

AMD will begin offering 65-nm technology in its Athlon 64 dual-core processors, which are geared toward PCs for commercial customers, gamers and consumers, in December and then the 65-nm versions of its single-core Athlon and Sempron processors in 2007.

When AMD rolls out its native quad-core processor, code-named Barcelona, in the second half of 2007, it will also be built on 65-nm technology, said David Schwarzbach, division marketing manager for desktop products at AMD.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about AMDs quad-core design.

In terms of efficiency, the new chips will feature a 65-watt thermal design, which will offer more power efficiency than the older 90-nm manufactured processors, Schwarzbach said.

These lower-power chips will use AMDs chip circuitry, called ref F, which uses the new AM2 socket and has the ability to work with DDR2 (double data rate 2) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM).

"We truly feel that these processors offer the best in the industry in terms of energy efficiency," Schwarzbach said.

The revamped processors come at a time when OEMs, such as Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Dell, are looking for more powerful chips to support Microsofts Windows Vista operating system, which requires a dual-core processor to optimize its various features.

These same PC and server makers are also in the hunt for the right processor that can offer better power efficiency in the data center, which has become an increasingly important concern for IT managers and facilities administrators.

The companys quad-core model, which AMD demonstrated for industry analysts on Nov. 30, will likely find a home in the server space, as well as with gamers, long before it finds a practical use in desktops and notebooks.

The 65-nm manufacturing, along with the quad-core demonstration, comes a few weeks after Intel launched its own quad-core models, the Xeon 5300 for servers and the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 for high-end client systems. AMD has been critical of its rivals quad-core offering and claims that it will produce the first "native" model, with four x86 processing cores on a single piece of silicon.

Unlike Intel, which will typically create a process technology and then make products to fit that process, AMD is developing the product and then creating the process to work with the chips, said Jim McGregor, an analyst with In-Stat, an IT marketing research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.

By using the 65-nm process and reducing the die size on the processors, AMD will be able to free up space for virtualization, a larger cache memory and better power efficiency, McGregor said.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about AMDs effort to gain market share.

"AMD is making a very transitional step," McGregor said. "This is a very important move for them in anticipation of offering the quad-core for servers in 2007. They have proven to be effective in the existing power range, and they need to do this in order to maintain the effectiveness."

The next step for AMD and Intel is to offer a 45-nm manufacturing processing, and McGregor believes that AMD will unveil those processors sometime in 2008. He said the company appears to be on track and has worked well with IBM to develop the process.

The 65-nm processors are built using the same SOI (silicon-on-insulator) transistor technology that IBM and AMD co-developed for the 90-nm chips.

In addition to announcing the availability of the 65-nm processors, AMD unveiled prices. The AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ will cost $301 per 1,000 units shipped, the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ will run $271, the Athlon 64 X2 4400+ will cost $214, and the Athlon 64 X2 4000+ will run $169, the company said.

AMD expects to convert all its processors to the 65-nm process by the second half of 2007, company officials said.

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