AMD Debuts Dual-Core Opteron, Athlon

As expected, AMD officially launched its dual-core Opteron processors for high-end servers Thursday at an event in New York City. The company is also preparing a dual-core desktop processor dubbed the AMD Athlon 64 X2, which will launch in June and go head to head with Intel's dual-core Pentium chips.

The 800 Series Opteron is available now and designed for four- to eight-way servers, while the 200 Series processors aimed at two-way servers and workstations will ship late May.

By packing two CPU cores onto a single chip die, AMD claims its new Opterons offer up to a 90 percent performance boost. The company says its dual-core chips use the same power and infrastructure as their single-core brethren, meaning a new chipset will not be required - only a BIOS upgrade.

Intel's dual-core chips, on the other hand, will require new motherboards with supporting chipset.

"Because our non-disruptive dual-core architecture is designed to fit in today’s existing infrastructure and provide leading- edge performance, enterprise customers can rapidly adopt AMD64 dual-core processors for servers and workstations today and for client platforms in June," said Marty Seyer, AMD corporate vice president, in Thursday's announcement.

With pressure from rival Intel, which launched its consumer-oriented dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition for desktop PCs earlier this week, AMD pushed forward its dual-core releases. Analysts and industry watchers hyped up the race, saying AMD could use the dual-core launch as an opportunity to win market share from Intel.

"We have flawlessly executed manufacturing AMD64 processors, which is why today we are announcing the world's only broad dual-core client and server processor line-up, well ahead of our announced schedule," said Seyer.

HP, IBM and Sun have already pledged to use the dual-core Opterons in their servers. Sun's Fire V40z integrates four processors and requires 40 percent less power than comparable Xeon multiprocessor offerings, the company says.

On the consumer side of the market, AMD is taking a slightly different approach from Intel, which is targeting power users and gamers.

AMD's Athlon 64 X2 will not replace its high-end Athlon 64 FX processor that is designed for gaming. Because most games are not written to take advantage of the new chips, AMD says X2 will primarily benefit digital media enthusiasts and PC users who run multiple applications simultaneously.

Becoming an early adopter of dual-core technology won't come cheap; pricing for the Athlon X2 will range from $537 to $1,001 in 1,000-unit quantities. The Opteron 200 Series starts at $851 and scales to $1,299, with the Opteron 800 Series topping out at $2,649 per processor.

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