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AMD launches dual-core Athlon 64 X2

Slowest X2 faster than fastest Pentium D, claims AMD exec

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Computex 2005 AMD formally launched its Athlon 64 X2 dual-core desktop processor today and pledged superior performance across the range than Intel's rival dual-core offerings can deliver.

The X2 series is available in two flavours, one with 1MB of L2 cache and the other with 2MB, in each case split 50:50 between the two cores. The latter is the 'Toledo' chip, which has been on AMD's public roadmap for some time, but the smaller-cache part, codenamed 'Manchester', is a new addition.

Toledo and Manchester will both be offered running at 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz, like the faster single-core Athlon 64s. Manchester's smaller cache means lower model numbers. At those clock frequencies, it's rated at 4200+ and 4600+ while Toledo comes in at 4400+ and 4800+.

AMD said the processors will boost the performance of "select" digital media and productivity software by up to 80 per cent over the company's single-core chips. On average, productivity performance goes up 22 per cent, compared to single-core Athlon 64s, while digital media apps run 34 per cent faster, the company claimed.

Like Intel - which last week formally announced its dual-core desktop processor, the Pentium D - AMD said end-users would be able to upgrade to a dual-core chip from a single-core processor with nothing more than a motherboard BIOS update and the price of the new processor.

AMD is keen to ensure the X2 doesn't hinder sales of its games-oriented Athlon 64 FX, and said the single-core part remains the best choice for gaming. It re-iterated its pledge to ship a dual-core FX part when multi-threaded games are available to take advantage of it.

That contrasts with Intel's stance. The chip giant reckons dual-core parts are still better for gamers, allowing them to run other apps, such as virus scanners, without hindering game performance.

Should anyone think that makes Intel's offering more attractive that AMD's, AMD COO Dirk Meyer had this to say: "Our lowest-performing dual-core chip outperforms the competition's highest-performing dual-core."

All four X2s are fabbed at 90nm and consume up to 110W, though AMD's PowerNow-derived Cool'n'Quiet technology is present to knock back core frequency and voltage when it the load is lighted. Each X2 connects using the Socket 939 interface, with the HyperTransport bus clocked to 2GHz.

A host of system builders announced their support for the X2 family, as did larger OEMs like HP, Acer and Lenovo. AMD is pitching the line-up not only at desktops but desk-bound notebooks too.

The X2 4200+, 4400+, 4600+ and 4800+ are priced at $537, $581, $803 and $1001, respectively, when sold in batches of 1000 chips. The prices come above single-core Athlon 64s. ®

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