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Could mean mainstream transition from dual core CPUs

AMD has been doing a decent job competing in the mainstream and value CPU markets, but it is facing increasing pressure from the world's largest semiconductor company. Intel holds the current desktop CPU performance crown with Nehalem-based Core i7 processors, and has just started shifting the technology into the mainstream with the launch of the Core i5.

Facing a performance gap, AMD is introducing two new quad core Athlon II CPUs, including the first processor below $100. Just three months ago, AMD launched its first dual-core Athlon II CPUs at similar prices. OEMs are loving this move, as they will be able to market AMD's quad cores against computers with Core 2 Duos at the same price point.

"The new AMD quad-core processors offer the right balance between excellent performance and price, and allow HP to continue to be a best-in-class provider of consumer technology," said John Cook, a VP from HP.

The Athlon II X4 630 and 620 CPUs run at 2.8GHz and 2.6GHz respectively, with 2MB of L2 cache but no L3 cache. AMD's 45nm process allows them to make these chips relatively cheaply, but it will still have an effect on the company's gross margins. The company  expects these chips to be paired up with motherboards using its 785G chipset, which has an integrated ATI Radeon 4200 GPU and support for DisplayPort.

Currently, Intel's cheapest quad core is the Core 2 Quad Q8400, selling at $163 in volume to OEMs.

All of these new processor launches are in preparation for the launch of Microsoft's Windows 7 on October 22, which is expected to be the catalyst for a wave of PC purchases throughout the busy Christmas shopping season.

Quad core CPUs have accounted for a small percentage of CPU shipments until now because of high price premiums and lower single thread performance in games. However, many games are now taking advantage of multiple threads, and Windows 7 has also been given some enhancements to improve multi-core performance.





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