AMD's Sempron 2800+ and 3100+ processors

The Celeron gets a new rival

VALUE PROCESSORS ARE all about artful foot-dragging. They are somewhat slower versions of the familiar Athlons and Pentiums, reworked and re-branded to sell at lower prices in cheaper PCs. At the high end of the market, we get to witness an epic struggle between AMD and Intel's best processors for all-out supremacy, but in the value realm, we witness something rather different. The point isn't to beat the other guy's product at any cost; it's a high-wire act in which the performers must balance beating the other guy's performance against the possibility of cannibalizing sales of one's own more expensive products.

For a while, AMD did a nice job balancing those concerns with the Duron processor, a direct competitor to Intel's Celeron. However, with the introduction of the Athlon 64 processor, the Duron started to fade away. The Athlon XP became AMD's low-end product, which only made sense given its mix of price and performance. However, the rise of this two-tiered Athlon lineup created confusion for a lot of folks, who were asking questions like, "Why should I pay more for this Athlon 64 3200+ when the Athlon XP 3200+ would seem to be just as good?"

That's a good question, and there are some good answers, too. But try explaining those answers to Joe Sixpack before his eyes glaze over—as phrases like "extra registers," "64-bit addressing" and "integrated memory controller" come gushing forth from your geeky face—and you'll start to understand the pickle AMD's marketing folks found themselves facing. So AMD decided it was time to resurrect a distinct value product line, and the AMD Sempron was born.

Yep, that's the name: Sempron. AMD has elected to stick with its "fake subatomic particle" naming scheme rather than veer into Intel's "fake member of the periodic table of elements" naming scheme. Sempron is largely a branding exercise, so the name is important. The Sempron name is intended to evoke phrases like "semper fidelis" and other such tokens of solidity and steadfastness. Roughly translated from a mix of Latin and leet-speak, though, Sempron means "always pornographic," and I fear the little CPU will never fully escape that connotation of its recently fabricated moniker.

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