AMD announces first triple-core Athlon processors

Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday announced a new range of desktop microprocessors, including its first Athlon triple-core processors.

AMD launched four Athlon II X3 triple-core processors as part of a new lineup that slips in between the dual-core Athlon II X2 and quad-core Athlon II X4 processors. The processors run at speeds between 2.2GHz and 2.9GHz and draw up to 95 watts of power.

The chips are designed to go into desktops and new PC form factors including all-in-one and small desktops, AMD said. Users will be able to see 3D graphics on PCs powered by the new processors, AMD said.

Triple-core chips add responsiveness to PCs and headroom to run additional programs, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at market research firm Insight 64. Users can run programs like antivirus on the third core when the first two cores are performing other system functions.

PC makers value triple-core processors because they fill a price and performance gap between dual- and quad-core processors, Brookwood said. Triple-core chips perform better than dual-core processors, but cost less than quad-core chips.

AMD's rival, Intel, offers only dual-core and quad-core processors for standard desktops. The Athlon II X3 chips are priced between US $76 and $102 in units of 1,000.

AMD on Tuesday also announced Athlon II models that provide full multimedia performance while drawing only 45 watts of power. Most Athlon II chips available today draw between 65 watts and 95 watts.

The low-power lineup includes dual-core, triple-core and quad-core chips that run at speeds between 2.2GHz and 2.8GHz. The chips are priced at under $143 in units of 1,000.

AMD's new chips are made using the new 45-nanometer manufacturing process, an AMD spokeswoman said. The chips typically are smaller and offer better performance than chips made using the older 65-nm process. AMD is trying to move a larger mix of its chips to the new manufacturing process in an effort to cut costs and offer more energy-efficient chips, company executives said on an earnings call last week.

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