Cyrix has promised it will have a 400MHz version of its M2 processor using a 100MHz bus by the end of this year, leapfrogging Intel in price/performance.
It also promised to retain the Socket Seven interface - which Intel is trying to persuade the industry to drop in favour of its Slot architecture - for the whole of 1998 and as far into 1999 as it can. Intel's challengers are clinging to Socket Seven, claiming many PC makers are reluctant to change motherboards to support the Intel design, although they admit the older architecture will run out of power by the end of the century.
That news came as fellow Intel cloner AMD responded to Intel's price cuts pf last Thursday by slashing prices on its own K6 processor range.
Graham Jackson, senior technical marketing manager at Cyrix Europe, said the company will be able to produce a 300MHz chip with a 100MHz bus in quantity in May, and had plans for 333MHz and 400MHz M2s by the end of the year.
He said: "All the alternative chip vendors are pushing Socket Seven hard, so the market is going to be very aggressive."
Support from third party chipset makers VIA, SIS and ALI - which make the electronics that surround the main processor - means that 100MHz bus chipsets with support for the new AGP graphics standard are now available.
Jackson said: "Clearly the main player is moving everyone towards Slot One. But customers [assemblers] don't like changing motherboards and a Socket Seven motherboard is now less than $50." That, he claimed, compared with the price of Slot One motherboards at over $100.
He added that the low price of Socket Seven components and motherboards meant that assemblers were able to offer better performance for half the price using the M2/300 processor, enabling them to bundle in larger hard drives and a greater range of additional options in their PCs, for no extra cost to the consumer.
Cyrix' acquisition by National Semiconductor will also allow it to ramp up its output. While IBM is still currently manufacturing the M2 processors for Cyrix under an existing partnership, Jackson said that Natsemi had advanced fabrication facilities that would allow them to ramp up fast process chips in volume.
Meanwhile, AMD responded to Intel's price moves by cutting prices on its range of processors.
The K6 266MHz now costs $156, the 233MHz $101, and the 200MHz $80. Last week AMD introduced a 300MHz chip that costs $246.
Dwayne Cox, senior corporate communications officer at AMD's Austin, Texas site, said the 266MHz part had benchmarked at greater performance than Intel's new Celeron - both are targeted at the consumer PC sector.
But he admitted AMD would have to move away from Socket Seven to a slot architecture as clock speeds break the 400MHz barrier. He said: "We're going from Socket Seven to Slot A using the K7 processor next year because we've realised that Socket Seven cannot support speeds much beyond 400MHz."
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