It’s the technology equivalent of the first snow fall of the season or carols playing in the mall.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) launched its latest chips on Tuesday. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company said it will have the

Athlon XP 2800+ and 2700+ processors on the street in time for holiday shopping. While the chips’ target audience is heavy-duty users (gamers, digital content creators, etc.), don’t expect AMD to mention clock speed.

Ed Ellet, AMD vice-president of client business, said the traditional processor benchmark is no longer a useful measurement.

“”PC performance is more than megahertz. It’s defined by how well your PC handles real-world applications,”” he says. ‘The use of megahertz alone as a performance measure is a problem, and there’s a growing awareness among PC buyers that megahertz by itself is a misleading indicator of computer performance.””

IDC analyst Roger Kay agreed, reasoning a system is only as fast as the weakest link. “”Yes, all things being equal a higher speed system will run a given application faster than a lower speed system, but all things aren’t equal,”” he said. “”There are faster and slower buses, faster and slower hard drives, faster and slower core logic.””

Scheduled for the end of November, the 2800+ will find itself in systems made by ABS, Alienware, Falcon Northwest, MicronPC and Voodoo PC. The 2.25 GHz 2800+ and the 2.167 GHz 2700+ are priced at US$397 and US$349, respectively, in 1,000 unit quantities, and feature a 333MHz front side bus.

Nathan Brookwood, a senior analyst at Insight 64 in Saratoga, Calif., called the launch a speed bump and wonders if AMD can get product into users’ hands by early December. It announced the 2400+ and 2600+ in August, he said, but those have only recently begun to ship.

“”In some sense AMD is getting a little ahead of itself here,”” he said. “”I suspect that their real goal was to introduce the 2800+ to match Intel’s current 2.8 GHz product before Intel can introduce a 3 GHz Pentium IV, which would have made the gap between Intel and AMD look a little bigger.””

Brookwood added that AMD has struggled this year, but can take comfort in the fact most customers aren’t buying high-end chips. Kay and Brookwood also said the majority of users have achieved good enough computing.

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