AMD Rolls Out 64-bit Desktop Chip

Athlon breaks ground for PC enthusiasts and high-end gamers.

SAN FRANCISCO—Advanced Micro Devices Inc. later today will lay down the second half of its bet on 64-bit computing.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company will introduce new chips at an event here. The much-touted Athlon 64 and mobile Athlon 64 chips for PCs and notebooks feature the same capabilities as AMDs Opteron counterpart for servers and workstations, which the company released in April, in particular the ability to run 32-bit and 64-bit applications equally well.

AMD is launching the more mainstream chips, the Athlon 64 3200+ for desktops and the Athlon 64 +3000 for notebooks. Those processors will run at 2GHz, and come with 1MB of Level 2 cache.

In addition, AMD is launching AMD 64 FX-51, a chip running at 2.2GHz that includes a 128-bit dual-channel memory controller for maximum bandwidth and 1MB of Level 2 cache. John Crank, Athlon product manager for AMD, said the company is positioning the chip to compete primarily against Prescott, Intel Corp.s upcoming next-generation Pentium chip. The AMD 64 FX-51 will target high-end gamers and PC enthusiasts, which he called "prosumers." The processor will sell for $733 in 1,000 quantity shipments.

"Theyll be able to do things that they cant physically do today," Crank said.

All the chips will include AMDs HyperTransport technology for faster data transfer within the PCs, and its CoolnQuiet features for reducing power and fan speed via on-demand frequency and voltage switching. The technology is designed to allow for cooler-running systems and noise reduction.

While AMD introduced its version of 64-bit computing with the launch of the Opteron server processor this past April, the company has also been busy prepping the consumer market for the Athlon 64. Meanwhile, Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., attempted to outflank the Athlon 64 FX by introducing the Pentium 4 with Hyperthreading Technology Extreme Edition at its developer forum last week in San Jose, Calif.


"Weve identified the areas where we need to focus; weve done so, and were highly engaged," said Hal Speed, strategic initiatives manager for AMD. "Were ready to go."

AMD officials also say there will be wide support from ISVs for the new chips at the launch on Tuesday. Microsoft Corp. already is creating 64-bit extensions to its Windows operating system.

For now, however, AMD is targeting the Athlon 64 and Athlon 64FX at the niche of a niche: those customers who want the highest performance processor, and who are willing to run either Linux or a Windows XP beta.

On Tuesday, Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., will provide a beta copy of its 64-bit Windows XP, called Windows XP 64-bit Edition For 64-bit Extended Systems. Users can run their 32-bit applications on the 64-bit OS using what Microsoft calls Windows on Windows 64 (WOW64) emulation technology. However, Microsoft must port all of the drivers contained within the XP code base to the 64-bit edition, and a final version of the software is vaguely scheduled for early in 2004.