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AMD launches mobile Athlon 4 processor

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) today launched the first mobile version of its Athlon processor, along with faster versions of its mobile Duron processor for low-cost notebooks.

The new mobile Athlon 4, which was formerly known by the codename Palomino, will be launched with four versions running at 850MHz, 900MHz, 950MHz and 1GHz. The fastest matches archrival Intel's highest performing mobile chip in terms of clock speed, a 1GHz mobile Pentium III.

AMD also launched two new models of its Duron processor at 800MHz and 850MHz, and said it has extended its PowerNow technology to this family of processors, which are aimed at cost-conscious buyers. PowerNow is designed to extend the battery life of notebooks by allowing the processor to reduce its clock speed and voltage when the machine is away from a mains outlet.

By offering PowerNow with both its Athlon and Duron processors, AMD hopes to gain an edge over market leader Intel. Intel uses a comparable power-saving technology called SpeedStep on its newest Pentium III mobile chips. However, SpeedStep is not available with Intel's low-cost family of mobile Celeron processors.

In addition, PowerNow allows notebook makers to set their processors so that they can fluctuate between as many as 32 levels of power consumption, while Intel's SpeedStep technology essentially allows a processor to move back and forth between two preset levels. Most notebook makers are likely to use between 8 and 16 levels only, said Gary Baum, AMD's director of mobile marketing.

"It dynamically changes voltage and frequency consistent with the demand on the CPU," Baum said. "That way it extends battery life, yet delivers the performance you need."

Listening to what notebook original equipment manufacturers (OEM's) want rather than dictating their needs will serve AMD well, said Rob Enderle, a research fellow with Giga Information Group. "Intel sets its own specifications," he said. "AMD is listening more to the OEMs, so they're designing their parts much more specifically to what the OEMs want."

Listening to OEMs might not be enough to take a bit out of Intel's market share, however. AMD's biggest challenge will be in persuading notebook makers to use the new processor, Enderle said. Vendors who choose to offer the new part are likely to see strong demand for the product, Enderle predicted.

The mobile Athlon 4 1GHz chip is priced at $425 (£300), the 950MHz chip is $350, the 900MHz is $270 and the 850MHz is $240, AMD said. The mobile Duron is priced at $197 for the 850MHz version and $170 for the 800MHz processor. All prices are for 1,000-unit quantities, a standard unit of measurement for chip sales.

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