AMD's K5-PR100 offers Pentium alternative

Following a lacklustre reception for its 75-MHz and 90-MHz Pentium alternatives, Advanced Micro Devices is trying again this week with a 100-MHz Pentium-class processor.

Following a lacklustre reception from vendors and corporate buyers for its 75-MHz and 90-MHz alternatives to Pentium processors, Advanced Micro Devices will try again this week with a 100-MHz Pentium-class processor.

The company's K5-PR100 is shipping now for midrange and low-end desktop PCs, according to a company official. It will be on display at this week's PC Expo in New York, where the company also will offer private demonstrations of its 120- and 133-MHz K5 chips, company officials say.

But AMD's tardiness has caused a lukewarm reaction among analysts.

"It'll finally have a chip that hits the mainstream, but it's soon to be low-end, so it's going to have a small window in which to catch Intel," says Mike Feibus, a principal at Mercury Research Inc., in Scottsdale, Arizona.

But according to AMD officials, a 100-MHz system with 16Mb of RAM will out-perform a 166-MHz system with only 8Mb of RAM. With memory prices at an all-time low, an IS manager can buy a 100-MHz system with 16Mb of RAM for less than US$1500 and save about US$250 compared with a system with a faster chip and less memory.

"We've done testing for the Winstone benchmark that agrees with that premise, but, on the other hand, most vendors don't sell 166-MHz systems with only 8Mb of RAM," says Linley Gwennap, editor of Microprocessor Report, in Mountain View, California.

The idea of saving US$250 per system would appeal to corporate users who use PCs for mostly mainstream applications, Feibus says.

"They may get comparable or greater performance using the memory upgrade method, but AMD needs to get that message to a lot of users," Feibus says.

Although AMD has been a late entry into the corporate desktop market, company officials say they intend to quickly ramp up production of high-speed x86-based microprocessors. They say the K5 road map runs through the production of a 166-MHz chip, and the company's K6 line -- which will compete directly with high-end Pentiums and Pentium Pros -- will begin sampling late this year with an eye on volume production by early 1997.

The K5-PR100 is shipping now, priced at US$84 each in 1000-unit quantities.

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