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AMD debuts "Athlon 4"
May 14, 2001: 12:15 a.m. ET

New processors feature improved power-saving, graphics functions
By Staff Writer Richard Richtmyer
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Compaq on Monday is set to introduce new notebook computer systems sporting the latest microprocessors from Advanced Micro Devices.

The PC maker is expected to introduce a new consumer "Presario" notebook powered by the new "Athlon 4" mobile processor, as well as one that uses the next-generation "Duron," the company's low-end processor for less expensive machines.

For AMD (AMD: Research, Estimates), the new Presarios are the first computers available that use the latest generation of its chips. The Athlon 4, previously code-named "Palomino," features a number of improvements over its predecessors, most notably its enhanced power-management features.

The company is pitting the new chips against Intel's Pentium 4 and the "Crusoe" mobile processors from upstart chipmaker Transmeta (TMTA: Research, Estimates).

In addition to modifications of the chip design itself, which the company said resulted in 20 percent less power consumption than previous Athlons, AMD's Athlon 4 chips use a technology it calls "AMD PowerNow!."

By using a combination of chip-hardware and software, the power-saving technology enables the system to adjust the speed at which it works based on the computing task at hand, explained Gary Baum, director of mobile marketing for AMD.

"It dynamically changes the voltage and the frequency based upon CPU demand," Baum said. "Whenever there's something to execute, it runs at the top speed. As soon as there isn't something to execute, it essentially goes into a sleep, or slower-mode state which saves power."

Transmeta's Crusoe processors also can dynamically change the speed at which they operate, although they differ in the way they accomplish it. The company uses a patented technology it calls "code morphing." That means they use software to translate the instructions typically handled directly by the transistors on other chips.

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Intel's (INTC: Research, Estimates) latest mobile chips achieve their low-power characteristics using a technology it calls "SpeedStep," which enables the processors to operate at lower speeds when the computer is running on battery power and higher speeds when plugged in.

AMD's new Athlon 4 chips also feature improvements to its "3DNow!" graphics technology, which refers to the instruction set programmed into the chips to handle 3D and multimedia functions. The Athlon 4 adds 52 new instructions to 3DNow!, the latest version of which the company has dubbed 3DNow! Professional.

It was by reducing the power-consumption that AMD was able to have the chip designed into notebook computers, a market in which the company plans to become much more aggressive, according to Baum.

Although the Athlon 4 is making its debut in consumer notebooks, Baum said AMD also will use the new chips to foster its position in the consumer desktop area as well as extend its reach into the commercial market and the market for network servers.

The Athlon 4 chips are available at clock speeds ranging from 850 MHz to 1 GHz.

Compaq (CPQ: Research, Estimates) also is expected to unveil a lower-cost notebook computer powered by a next-generation Duron processor from AMD, which features similar advancements in technology. Those chips are available at clock speeds of 800 MHz and 850 MHz. graphic