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AMD's Athlon steps up to 64 bits

The chipmaker will unveil its Athlon 64 processor on Tuesday. Along with added performance, the chip offers PC buyers the option of upgrading to 64-bit software--a feature Intel's Pentium doesn't offer. Such software, which offers improved graphics capabilities, will start hitting shelves later this year.

Analysts have said that in order for AMD to set itself apart in the PC processor race, it needs two things: competitive performance and something its archrival doesn't have. "AMD needs to demonstrate that it's competitive with Intel and at the same time is offering some differentiation--one of the things it is doing through 64-bit capability," said Dean McCarron, analyst with Mercury Research.

On the performance front, sources familiar with AMD's plans said the Athlon 64 will run at higher-than-expected clock speeds, a measure that will help against Intel. That leaves the 64-bit angle. The payoff from upgrading to 64-bit software involves higher performance from applications such as video-editing programs, along with more "cinematic" graphics for games. The improvements come mainly from a 64-bit computer's ability to use much more RAM than 32-bit computers can.

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News source: news.com

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