AMD Takes Turn with Dual-Core Athlon X2

Only one holiday weekend behind its rival Intel released its dual-core Pentium D chipset, AMD this week announced the Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor that, much like Intel’s offering, is aimed at rolling the new chip technology into the wider marketplace of desktop and notebook PCs, in addition to servers.

AMD said the new processors — backed by PC makers including Acer, Alienware, HP and Lenovo — would deliver performance improvements of as much as 80 percent over single-core Athlon 64s on select digital media and productivity applications.

Analysts indicated price will limit adoption of dual-core processors such as Athlon 64 X2 and Intel’s Pentium D, but the multi-threaded computing technology will become widespread next year, and for now offers a big performance boost to so-called “prosumers” and other digital media users who run multiple software applications simultaneously, which itself is becoming more mainstream.

“The processing power to deal with that doesn’t come for free,” Gartner vice president Steve Kleynhans told TechNewsWorld regarding security and increasingly sophisticated multimedia applications. “Nothing comes for free from a processing standpoint. Mutli-core allows you to get more headroom, so what you really use the computer for gets processing power.”

Goodbye Hourglass

AMD said the new Athlon 64 X2 would address power users “frustrated by the hourglass icon when trying to work on multiple programs at once,” while still increasing performance of music, digital photo and other programs with security software — including anti-virus, spyware filter and firewall — running simultaneously.

“With the introduction of the AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor, desktop users will gain incredible performance benefits with the ability to multi-task and do more in less time,” said AMD Vice President of Desktop Business Bob Brewer in a statement.

AMD, which is making the new Athlon 64 X2s available immediately, added its dual-core processor is designed to allow consumers and businesses to simultaneously download audio files such as MP3s, burn a CD, check and write email, edit a digital photo and run virus protection without slowing down the computer. In terms of gaming, the chip company indicated it will introduce a dual-core version of the AMD Athlon 64 FX processor when multi-threaded software games are available.

Power for Prosumers

Gartner’s Kleynhans said while most users, and particularly gamers, will not gain much from the multi-core technologies from both Intel and AMD for another year or so, users working with digital media and entertainment applications will see an instant advantage from the dual-core chips.

Kleynhans added while there are no multi-threaded games to take advantage of the new technology, the infrastructure for multi-core and multi-threaded computing already exists in PCs, where operating systems and multimedia applications are ready to use the dual-core processing power.

The analyst indicated while price will keep multi-core computing from widespread adoption until next year, improved manufacturing and market demand will eliminate the premium for multi-core processors.

Shrinking Process and Price

Mercury Research President Dean McCarron told TechNewsWorld that as they compete against much cheaper processors such as Intel’s single-core Celeron, the dual-core chips from Intel and AMD will have limited uptake.

However, McCarron said as both companies improve and shrink their manufacturing processes and prices, the price of multi-core chips will drop and fuel popularity, which he predicted in 2006.

“They go hand in hand,” McCarron said of price and adoption. “We will be seeing, as the process shrinks, higher performance and more integration between cores.”

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