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AMD takes a hammer to Intel

AMD has announced the first of several forthcoming processors, code-named Clawhammer, which will come in at about half the size of Intel’s much-lauded Pentium 4.

AMD has announced the first of several forthcoming processors, code-named Clawhammer, which will come in at about half the size of Intel’s much-lauded Pentium 4. Clawhammer will be positioned as a high-end desktop PC as well as a low-end server offering, and will be manufactured in a 0.13-micron process in less than 100 square millimetres, smaller and theoretically less expensive than the company’s Duron, and more than three times the clock speed of AMD’s first Athlon.

The new chip is the result of work done by the processor giant’s decision to employ a new manufacturing process, using design innovations such as silicon on insulator (SOI). SOI adds a layer of oxide material between the transistor and silicon it rests on inside a chip. The oxide insulates the transistor from the silicon, reducing the amount of energy lost. The transistor therefore runs faster and therefore consumes less power.

“We will get a very substantial performance increase from architectural enhancements to the chip,” said AMD CEO Jerry Saunders.

Although many in the US have doubted that Clawhammer will have an immediate impact, its is regarded as something of a dark horse. The new chip will reportedly enter production in the first quarter of 2002.

The announcement comes at a time when the two companies have extended their gentleman's agreement yet again. They have signed a 10-year patent-licensing deal, the fourth pact between the companies since 1976. The deal is retroactive to Jan. 1, when the previous agreement expired. The deal calls for Intel to receive royalties from AMD. Intel has patents covering aspects of the x86 instruction set used in processors for Windows-based PCs.

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