AMD ups Athlon ante with high-speed memory support

As expected, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) introduced Monday a new chip set that will allow PCs powered by its high-end Athlon processors to take advantage of the emerging DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory) high-speed memory devices.

In addition, the AMD-760 chip set is designed to support new versions of the Athlon processor family featuring a faster 266MHz front-side bus and running at clock speeds of 1.2GHz, 1.13GHz and 1GHz, which also were introduced Monday.

Users in the United States and Europe itching to lay their hands on systems featuring the speedy memory technology and new AMD devices are advised to contact the online storefront of Micron Electronics Inc. or NEC Computers International BV, Tokyo-based NEC Corp.’s European unit. The two PC vendors will immediately start taking orders for systems that are scheduled to start shipping in November, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD said in a statement.

Rollout plans for other regions were not immediately available, but AMD said that other major PC vendors, including Compaq Computer Corp., also are expected to introduce similar systems in early 2001.

DDR SDRAM is an emerging memory specification backed by most of the world’s leading memory chip makers that promises to double the peak data throughput rate as compared to today’s mainstream SDRAM devices, offering peak bandwidth as high as 2.1G bytes per second.

Suppliers of the speedy memory chips, which include Infineon Technologies AG, Micron Technology Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., earlier have said that DDR SDRAM chips will only carry a small price premium over today’s SDRAM chips. DDR SDRAMs are thus expected to offer a price advantage over competing memory chips such as RDRAMs based on Rambus Inc.’s interface technology, which although offering better performance also are priced significantly higher than SDRAM chips.

Systems featuring DDR SDRAM and the new Athlon processors are set to compete with forthcoming systems based on Intel Corp.’s soon-to-be-released Pentium 4 processor and RDRAM.

Craig Barrett, the president and chief executive officer of Intel, said here Friday that the Pentium 4 will be launched in about a month’s time, running at clock speeds of 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz, and will show up in systems featuring the speedy RDRAM chips.

The launch of the Pentium 4 is likely to set the stage for yet another battle between the chip giant and AMD for supremacy in the lucrative high end of the desktop PC market.

Barrett hinted that Intel has plans to aggressively move the Pentium 4 to lower price brackets to win market share in the mainstream PC segment.

“We will price the Pentium 4 processor precisely as necessary to get it into the volume desktop marketplace,” Barrett told reporters here Friday.

The 1.2GHz, 1.13GHz and 1GHz Athlons featuring the 266MHz front-side bus are priced at US$673, $506 and $385, respectively, each in 1,000-unit quantities, AMD said in the statement. Athlons to date have used a 200MHz front-side bus.

The AMD-760 chip set, meanwhile, is priced at $39 each, in 1,000-unit quantities, AMD said.

AMD, in Sunnyvale, Calif., can be reached at Micron Electronics, in Nampa, Idaho, is at NEC Computers International, in Wijchen, the Netherlands, is at