News | May 25, 1999

Advanced Micro Devices Ships Mobile K6-III Processors

Girding its loins for battle with Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD; Sunnyvale, CA) is now shipping K6-III-P mobile microprocessors. Planning to win sockets in notebooks, AMD claims its 380 MHz flavor is the fastest x86-compatible mobile PC processor on the market. At the same time, the firm has announced availability of 366 MHz and 350 MHz versions of the K6-III-P.

All of AMD's 21-million transistor designs are manufactured on AMD's 0.25-micron, five-layer-metal fab lines at the company's facilities in Austin, Texas. "The K6-III-P builds on the success we've had with the Mobile AMD-K6-2 processor," notes Dana Krelle, vice president of marketing for AMD's Computation Products Group. "It extends our mobile offerings into the high-performance notebook space."

Competing With Pentiums

Indeed, these devices are direct competition for Intel's high performance Mobile Pentium III and Pentium II devices, the so-called Dixon chips. The new devices from AMD also leverage the firm's so-called 3DNow technology for enhanced 3-D graphics, DVD playback, and speech recognition. AMD claims 3DNow is the first innovation to the ubiquitous Intel-originated x86 architecture.

According to AMD, 3DNow especially enhances floating-point-intensive 3D graphics and multimedia applications. It does this using a single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) execution architecture.

AMD introduced 3DNow in January with its Mobile AMD-K6-2 processor roll out. Since then, the company indicates the worldwide installed base of 3DNow-endowed PCs has grown to more than 12 million desktops and notebooks. For OEMs and applications developers, support for 3DNow consists of standardized APIs--including Microsoft's DirectX 6.x and SGI's OpenGL APIs. So far, a host of hardware and software products have been optimized for 3DNow.

Here Come Notebooks

Concurrent with the announcement of silicon availability of AMD's speediest processor, a number of notebook computer OEMs have declared they're set to deliver pumped up K6-III-P designs. Compaq's Consumer Mobile Division, for example, says it's about to ship a line of Presario Internet-oriented PCs powered by the K6-III-P. These will be ready later this quarter.

"We'll use the K6-III-P to extend the performance of our Presario line," notes Alex Gruzen, general manager of Compaq's Consumer Mobile Division. "We plan to have systems based on it available at our 'Built For You' retail kiosks, as well as for Web site purchase."

Elsewhere on the OEM notebook design scene, Hewlett-Packard (HP) has unveiled a sub-$500 so-called "Home PC." HP's Pavilion 4530 presently runs a 350 MHz K6-2 processor. HP will compete head-on with Compaq's less-than-$600 Presario 5000. The K6-2 is also designed into Compaq Presario Internet and Prosignia Business notebooks. It's also in use in Toshiba's Satellite, and IBM's Thinkpad iSeries of notebooks.

Big, and More, Caches

The K6-III-P continues to leverages AMD's TriLevel Cache design, a sixth-generation triple-cache architecture that includes a 100 MHz bus. By way of comparison, Intel's PII Dixon has only a 66 MHz frontside bus.

The K6-III-P also offers double the Level One (L1) cache of Intel's mobile Celeron and PII devices. This is a feature calculated to propel K6-III-P platforms into the so-called "value" sector of the low-end marketplace. The cache architecture supports a full-speed 64 kbyte L1 cache, and an internal full processor-speed backside 256 kbyte Level 2 (L2) cache. what's more, the chip's 100 MHz frontside bus permits access to an optional external Level 3 (L3) cache as well. It can be as large as 1 Mbyte.

The K6-III-P is also compatible with AMD's existing Super7 platform infrastructure. Product marketing manager for AMD's mobile processing division Martin Booth also points out that the device is pin- and footprint compatible with existing K6-2s, so OEMs won't have big board re-layout tasks ahead of them.

Lower The Heat

Unlike Intel's 1.6 V core, which is part of Intel's Voltage Reduction power management thrust, the AMD K6-III-P core operates at 2.2 V. The processor has an extended case temperature rating of 80°C, and typically dissipates about 12 W.

AMD says its Mobile AMD-K6-III-P/380 processor is available today, priced at less than $350 a pop in 1,000-unit quantities. 366 MHz versions are priced a bit lower at about $316 each (at time of publication) and 350 MHz speeds are less than $250.