AMD to launch new laptop, desktop chips by midyear

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. plans to launch its first desktop and laptop processors by the middle of the year that support DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory chips, AMD executives said on the sidelines of a news conference at the Cebit IT show in Hanover, Germany.

“Dual and single core (desktop processors) will both be out at the same time,” said Doug Hooks, AMD director of marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The desktop version, the Athlon 64 socket AM2, already enjoy broad motherboard support from companies showing off finished designs at Cebit. Spec sheets from board makers say the chips are meant for use with DDR2 memory chips, a speedier generation of memory already available that run at 667MHz or faster.

“Until you hit 667MHz or 800MHz you don’t tend to end up getting a significant performance advantage with our architecture over DDR,” said Hooks, explaining why the company has waited longer than rival Intel Corp. to support DDR2.

He also cited cost, since DDR2 commands a premium over older DDR. With no real performance advantage and no cost advantage, it made little sense for AMD to push a chip that supported DDR2, he said.

The first few series of DDR2 ran at only 400MHz and 533MHz, which caused some analysts and systems makers to balk at the added cost. They became popular in laptops since the main advantage they offered was power savings. But DDR2 has had a tougher time in desktops, where DDR chips that run at 400MHz, or DDR-400, have enjoyed a long reign as the most widely used memory chip.

But more advanced DDR2 chips offer better performance and an advantage in power savings, which will be good for servers, desktops and laptops, Hooks said. That’s why AMD will offer a host of chips in the middle of the year, including an update to its Turion laptop processors.

Chipset makers and motherboard companies at Cebit were already showing broad support for the next generation of AMD Athlon processors, in particular the big five Taiwanese motherboard makers, which account for well over half the global supply. Motherboards are printed circuit boards inside every computer that hold and connect all of the chips and systems on a PC.

Taiwanese motherboard maker Elitegroup Computer Systems Co. Ltd. has two designs for the AMD processors at its Cebit booth, one dubbed the A25G that uses a chipset designed by Via Technologies Inc., the Via K8M890 IGP chipset, and another one, the A33G, with a Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. chipset, the SiS 761 GX+964. The spec sheets beside the two motherboards say they both support dual channel DDR2 running at 667MHz, and can carry a maximum of 2G bytes of memory on board.

Giga-byte Technology Co. Ltd., another one of Taiwan’s major motherboard makers, have two AMD motherboards on display that use chipsets from graphics designer Nvidia Corp. and support dual channel DDR2. Giga-byte’s GA-MXE-S4 motherboard carries an Nvidia nForce 570 SLI chipset (scalable link interface), which enables users to connect two Nvidia SLI-ready graphics cards together on one PC for better game playing. The other motherboard, the GA-MN-S3, has an Nvidia nForce 4-4x chipset on board.

Micro-Star International Co. Ltd. was displaying three motherboards that support DDR2 for the AMD microprocessor, while Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. and Asustek Computer Inc. were also showing off such motherboards.