XP Goes to 64 Bits

Processors: Intel, AMD Plan New 64-Bit Desktop CPUs

Illustration by Randy Lyhus.
Illustration: Randy Lyhus
What's on tap for new PCs? 64-bit chips. When Microsoft's 64-bit desktop OS ships later this year, systems that run it should not be hard to find. Both AMD and--at long last--Intel plan to launch new 64-bit processors in the coming months, and later in the year each will roll out its first dual-core CPUs, which are also 64-bit.

Intel will make its first foray into the 64-bit desktop processor arena by spring, with a new line of high-end Pentium 4 CPUs based on the company's Extended Memory 64 Technology, according to Bill Kirby, the company's director of desktop marketing and strategic planning. The technology is already enabled in the company's Xeon server and workstation products. The new product line, which will come with several silicon-level enhancements, including a larger L2 cache, will carry the 600-series designation. By midyear, Intel plans to add 64-bit capabilities to its existing (and by then midrange) 500-series Pentium 4 CPUs, as well as to its 300-series budget Celeron D processors.

Though the processor giant expects to offer a top-to-bottom desktop lineup of 64-bit CPUs this year, it has no plans to market a 64-bit-capable mobile processor in 2005. The company simply doesn't see a demand for 64-bit notebooks yet, Kirby says.

AMD clearly disagrees. The chip maker, which began selling its Athlon 64 desktop CPUs in September 2003 and later added the Mobile AMD Athlon 64, is set to launch a new, second-generation 64-bit notebook CPU called the Turion by midyear. The new processor will be geared specifically toward thin-and-light notebooks, says Bahr Mahony, division marketing manager of AMD's mobile business segment.

Both AMD and Intel plan to debut 64-bit, dual-core desktop products this year. Essentially two CPUs in one, each with its own cache, dual-core processors should boost performance noticeably over today's CPUs without raising the level of heat-producing megahertz.

AMD plans to roll out its first dual-core desktop processors in the second half of the year. The company doesn't expect to offer a dual-core mobile CPU this year, however. Intel intends to launch its dual-core desktop processors sometime after midyear, and it expects to begin rolling out mobile products by year's end, with a full-scale launch in early 2006.

Tom Mainelli

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