AMD Aims Dual-Core Athlons At Power Users

AMD's first dual-core processors for the PC market will offer up to an 80% improvement in performance for some applications.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. on Tuesday revealed the availability of its first dual-core processors for the PC market, saying the chips will offer up to an 80% improvement in performance for some applications.

The Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors are being aimed at the "prosumer" market, defined as "sophisticated power users who need to multitask or even hypertask," says Teresa de Onis, desktop branding manager for AMD. The processors will be particularly attractive to those using digital media applications, where the Athlon 64 X2 can provide up to an 80% performance boost over a single-core Athlon processor, she says.

"There are certain environments where you are running applications on multiple threads where dual-core processors will shine, like with video and video encoding," says Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research. "Other applications that aren't as yet multithreaded won't show much improvement on a dual-core system."

In addition to digital media, the dual-core PC processors will aid users who are running multiple tasks simultaneously on their systems, such as security applications, antivirus programs, and spam blockers, de Onis says. "With dual-core we can make your PC fast again," she says. "One core can be used to handle the background applications, and one can handle those applications running in the foreground."

Among the first systems manufacturers to offer PCs with the Athlon 64 X2 are Acer, Alienware, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo.

The dual-core PC processors will grow in usefulness over the coming year, as more software vendors create multithreaded versions of their offerings to take advantage of the new technology, de Onis says.

AMD plans to continue to support the gaming market with its high-end, single-core Athlon FX processor, she says. The company plans to introduce a higher-performance version of the Athlon FX, the FX57, this summer. Currently, its highest performance Athlon FX, the FX55, has a clock speed for 2.6 GHz.

Virtually all gaming software is written as a single-thread application, where the use of a dual-core processor would have limited impact on performance, De Onis says.

The Athlon 64 X2 is available as the 4800+, 4600+, 4400+, and 4200+, priced at $1,001, $803, $581, and $537, respectively, in 1,000-unit quantities.

Intel last week revealed plans to aim its new dual-core Pentium D processors initially at the digital home market. Intel's 2005 Professional Business Platform will utilize a single-core Pentium 4 processor.

Gerald Holzhammer, VP of Intel's digital home group and general manager of the consumer client group, says Intel will ship more than 100,000 dual-core Pentium D processors in current quarter and millions by the end of the year.