updated 5/31/2005 8:53:51 AM ET 2005-05-31T12:53:51

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is launching its first PC microprocessors with two computing engines on a single chip Tuesday, further expanding its product line with a technology that's expected to be a major driver of PC performance for years to come.

The four chips to be announced Tuesday at the Computex trade show in Taiwan are targeted at high-end personal computers used for advanced tasks such as creating or editing digital media.  In April, AMD introduced dual-core chips for servers and workstations.

AMD's announcement of the Athlon 64 X2 comes less than a week after Intel Corp. launched its first mainstream dual-core chips, dubbed the Pentium D.

Both companies have been in a tight race to deliver the processors since engineers realized that simply ratcheting up the clock speed of single-core chips was creating too much heat and not producing the same improvements seen in previous models.

It became apparent that performance could be boosted by creating two computing cores and running them at a slower speed on a single chip.

But the technology does have drawbacks.  For one, it only benefits users who run several programs at once or have software specially designed to take advantage of the two engines.

AMD claims its chips have been designed from the start for dual-core use, and early reviews indicate they outperform Intel's offering despite the larger chip maker's higher frequencies.  AMD's chips also can address larger amounts of memory than Intel's current dual-core offerings.

The first Athlon 64 X2 chips are roughly twice the price of Intel's Pentium D processors.  The low-end AMD chip runs at 2.2 gigahertz and costs $537 when purchased in volume, while the high end runs at 2.4 GHz and costs $1,001.

By comparison, Intel's low-end Pentium D runs at 2.8 GHz but costs $241, while its high-end Pentium D runs at 3.2 GHz and costs $530.  Intel also offers a dual-core Extreme Edition Pentium for $999 each.

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