Chips Ahoy!

Making Their Mark

AMD is among the leading alternative chip makers. In fact, its healthy position as a supplier of chips to PC manufacturers became even more stable recently when Compaq announced that all its new consumer desktop systems priced at less than $1,200 will include processors from AMD, not Intel or even low-cost leader Cyrix. AMD chips have also been adopted by IBM, Acer, Digital, Fujitsu and other computer manufacturers.

AMD's newest chip is the K6 processor. It's currently available at peak speeds of 233 and 266 MHz, with plans for a 300 MHz version. Benchmark tests on equally configured systems have shown the K6's per-formance is competitive with the Pentium II--at a significantly lower price. That's because the K6 is based on a new 0.25-micron technology that allows it to produce more processors per wafer, delivering cheaper chips that also consume less power. The K6 processor also includes MMX technology for enhancing multimedia and graphics applications.

By mid-year, AMD plans to release the K6 3D chip aimed at supplying greater realism for 3-D software and advanced graphics applications. This move probably won't impact your business unless you're involved in 3-D graphics and multimedia. If you are, the K6 3D chip promises to dramatically enhance your visual and audio experience with full-featured MPEG-2 video and AC-3 sound compatibility. By year-end, AMD will offer the K6+ 3D chip for even greater realism of 3-D software; AMD's next-generation processor, the K7, will be released sometime next year.

Meanwhile, Cyrix has begun to ship the latest version of its 6x86MX chip, which performs at 233 and 266 MHz. The 6x86MX offers Pentium II performance at a lower price and has full MMX compatibility to run the latest MMX games and multimedia software. The 6x86MX is primarily targeted at the sub-$1,500 desktop segment. In addition, Cyrix makes the MediaGX processor, with speeds of up to 200 MHz, which is mainly found in sub-$1,000 models.

Because of the low price tag, PC manufacturers looking to pump up profits are adopting non-Intel processors for their more affordably priced consumer models. Compaq, for instance, uses AMD K6 and Cyrix MediaGX processors in new lower-end models of its Presario line of computers; higher-end models contain Intel's Pentium II chip. Acer, one of the first larger PC manufacturers to put non-Pentium class processors in its machines, uses an AMD K6 processor in lower-priced systems of its Aspire line, while IBM is using AMD K6 processors in two new models of its Aptiva E series. Many of these modestly priced systems offer strong perfomance and the latest technology.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Chips Ahoy!.

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