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AMD's 2005 mobile push off to early start

Gericom and Packard Bell NEC plan to use the Mobile Sempron 3000+ chip in new notebooks before the end of the year, but AMD's new processor looks unlikely to overturn Intel's solid advantage in the notebook market.

Although based on the Mobile Athlon 64 processing core, Mobile Sempron chips contain less cache memory and lack the Mobile Athlon 64's 64-bit extensions.

Designed for thin-and-light notebooks, usually categorised as systems weighing about 2.25kg, the Mobile Sempron 3000+ runs at 1.8GHz, has 128Kbytes of Level 2 cache and costs $134 (£71) in quantities of 1,000 units.

Chip makers often sell what they call "defeatured" versions of their flagship processors in order to hit particular price levels. AMD does just this with its Sempron chips, which compete against Intel's Celeron processors.

But AMD lacks a strong challenger to Intel's Pentium M processor. Introduced in 2003, the Pentium M combined the performance features of the Pentium 4 with the power-friendly architecture of the Pentium III. Intel is expected eventually to drop the Pentium 4 architecture in favour of the Pentium M design as its primary architecture for notebooks, desktops and low-end servers.

While AMD has taken great strides forward in the market for desktop and server processors, it has had less success in reaching mainstream notebook users. Its Mobile Athlon 64 processor comes in a version targeted at the thin-and-light market but needs 35W under maximum operating conditions compared with the Pentium M's 21W power consumption, making the latter a more attractive proposition for notebook makers.

AMD's notebook processors are usually aimed at desktop replacement notebooks. These larger systems are designed more for performance than mobility and are typically used in homes for multimedia applications. EMachines and Hewlett-Packard offer some Athlon 64 notebooks, but Intel-based notebooks constitute about 70% of all notebooks sold at retail, according to Current Analysis. And that figure doesn't include notebooks from Dell, all of which use Intel processors.

AMD executives acknowledged this gap in the company's product line-up at a recent analyst meeting. AMD executive vice-president Dirk Meyer said the company had one team of engineers developing an Athlon 64 processor that would consume a maximum of 25W, while another was focusing on an extremely low-power chip for ultraportable notebooks and fanless devices.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service


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