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-- by Jonathan Blackwood
Manufacturers who wish to use the AMD-K6 processor will find a chip that's much less demanding than the Pentium II. At equivalent clock speeds, the K6 more or less equals the performance of the Pentium Pro-class of Intel processors (including the Pentium II). Sure, it's a hair slower here, a hair faster there, but it equals or even surpasses the Intel chips on ordinary software application performance. And it fits into a standard Socket 7 (Pentium-style) motherboard. It doesn't even require a new chipset-Intel's Triton II will do quite nicely, although AMD has announced plans for its own chipsets to allow support for new technologies such as AGP on Socket 7 motherboards.
Incidentally, even though Intel licensed its new multimedia technology to AMD in January 1996, and the K6 fully supports all 57 new multimedia instructions on the chip, Intel initially refused to allow AMD to use its trademarked MMX name-until the courts decided otherwise.
The K6's low power and small size mean that it's currently the only choice for sixth-generation x86 processing in a notebook computer. In addition, at a given clock speed, the K6's price is a fraction of the cost of Intel chips with equivalent performance. Now you've got the makings of a real horse race, especially in the small-business, SOHO and consumer markets.
So is the K6 the Pentium II killer, as some have proclaimed? Probably not, though it promises to offer Intel the rare experience of some real competition. Its performance is similar, and it's much cheaper than the Pentium II. But it's more likely that AMD's chip will be a Pentium killer: At current prices, the 200MHz K6 chip is some $200 less apiece in lots of 1,000 than the 200MHz P55C Pentium, and it's significantly faster at its higher clock rates. That level of performance at that price affords the K6 a charisma of its own.