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AMD Upgrades Athlon X2 Desktop Dual-Core Lineup

AMD's chip introduction comes as the company is locked in an intense dual-core technology battle with Intel. HP will be among the first to take the CPU to market.

AMD on Wednesday will debut its dual-core Athlon 64 X2 5200+ desktop processor. The high-end parts are intended for use in commercial desktop PCs. Hewlett-Packard will be among the first Tier I computer makers taking the CPU to market, in its new HP Compaq dc5750 desktop PC.

HP showed off the 5750, as well as a workstation which will use AMD's new Rev. F Opteron server processors, at a joint event with AMD in New York on Tuesday evening.

The 5200+ runs at a clock speed of 2.6 GHz and is fitted with a dual, 1-MB L2 cache. As with AMD's top-of-the-line desktop dual-core, the FX-62, the 5200+ uses AMD's new AM2 socket. The socket effectively doubles the processor-to-memory bandwidth by enabling the chip to work with newer and faster generation of DDR2 memory. AM2 also brings support for AMD's hardware-assisted virtualization technology to the desktop.

The 5200+ comes in at the top of AMD's dual-core Athlon 62 X2 family, above the Athlon 5000+, which was introduced in May. The X2 family is one rung down from AMD's top-of-the-line FX-62 dual core. However, the FX-62 is aimed largely at so-called "enthusiast" users -- mainly high-end gamers. As a result, the 5200+ effectively becomes AMD's highest performing mainstream part aimed at commercial desktops.

AMD's chip introduction comes as the scrappy semiconductor vendor is locked in an intense dual-core technology battle with Intel. That battle has played out in a series of recent product introductions. In May, AMD refreshed the high end of its Athlon line, and in July Intel introduced its long-awaited Core 2 Duo (formerly codenamed Conroe) chips -- the first desktop processors in its new "Core" microarchitecture.

With the Core 2 Duo processors, Intel is widely considered to have taken back the performance crown at the high end of the dual-core landscape. That's a position AMD had held for a considerable period of time. However, on Tuesday, AMD wasn't conceding anything. "We still believe we provide the best overall experience from a price/performance perspective," said Kevin Knox, AMD's vice president of commercial business.

AMD also avowed that it has been making considerable progress towards the next leap forward in processor technology -- quad-core chips. To make those CPUs, AMD is currently ramping up its next-generation semiconductor fabrication process at its new Fab 36 in Dresden, Germany. "Quad cores will be at 65-nm," Kurt Holman, AMD's commercial-desktops division marketing manager, said in an interview Tuesday. "We are starting to ramp up 65-nm and will be shipping for revenue by the end of the year."

AMD's existing Fab 30 facility in Dresden is simultaneously being retrofitted for 65-nm. That plant should be pumping out chips on 300-mm wafers by the end of 2007.

AMD's 65-nm push is significant because Intel is already at 65-nm, while AMD's processors are currently fabricated using 90-nm technology.

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