SAN FRANCISCO – Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices, fierce rivals in the microprocessor market, on Monday unveiled their smallest and fastest-ever chips, enabling more powerful applications, such as games, streaming music and video, and office software packages.
Advanced Micro Devices launched its Athlon XP 2000+, which runs at 1.67 gigahertz, or 1.67 billion cycles a second, while Intel unveiled its new Pentium 4 chip, running at 2.2 gigahertz, analysts said.
Intel's previous fastest chip was the Pentium 4 running at 2 gigahertz, and Advanced Micro's was its Athlon XP1900+, which runs at 1.6 gigahertz. Last year, AMD briefly claimed the fastest running microprocessor, the primary computing engine of personal computers, although Intel has since pulled ahead.
AMD, which has struggled to convince major personal computer makers to use its chips, said Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. signed on to use the new XP 2000+ processor in their computers.
Intel's Pentium 4 chip marks its biggest move yet into making chips with smaller geometries. Currently, Intel's Pentium 4 chip has components that are as little as 0.18 microns wide. With the chips being announced on Monday, those dimensions will shrink to as little as 0.13 microns.
By comparison, the width of a human hair is about 50 microns.
``What's new and interesting here is Intel is now moving the Pentium 4 into 0.13, which is a necessity in terms of die size and costs,'' Scovel said, referring to the size of the chip itself and the equipment used to make it.
``The Pentium 4 in round numbers has about twice as many transistors as the Pentium III,'' Scovel said. ``This in my opinion gets the die size down to where it probably should have been when it was first introduced.''
The smaller line widths on the chips mean they cost less to produce, because more chips can be manufactured from a single wafer. It also boosts performance, because more transistors can be packed into a single processor.
AMD late last year revamped the branding strategy for its processors, naming them Athlon XP 1700, 1800, 1900, and, now, 2000, to refer to what it said was the overall performance of the individual processor. It was also an effort to try and move consumers away from focusing on the clock speed of the chip, which, in microprocessors, is now measured in gigahertz.