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The AMD K6 processor: Image courtesy of AMD Corporation

AMD launched its K6 processor to much acclaim amongst the computer world in May 1997. It proved to be a significant launch as here was a chip at last which was a credible challenger to Intel's desktop offerings. The K6 even briefly held the title of fastest desktop processor before the Pentium II was released. The first shot had been fired in the sixth generation chip war between AMD and Intel and started a process which we can now feel the benefit of.

AMD K6, first of an impressive dynasty

The AMD K6 was significant chiefly for the fact that it was the first processor to truly challenge Intel's dominance since the launch of the Pentium in 1993. The PC owner could now specify a processor which offered leading edge power for a price which was very tempting against those of the Intel Pentium MMX. The K6 was a Socket 7 compliant chip which was capable of running all PC software with the power and compatiblity of its Intel counterparts.

The K6 was built around the original NexGen 686 core which was inherited by AMD when it bought the small firm in 1996. This allowed AMD to recover after its problems with its own K5 processor and inital difficulties in the development of its "in house" K6 design. NexGen had developed a powerful "six issue" RISC processor core which gave the chip impressive sixth generation performance. AMD enhanced this design by the addition of Intel's new MMX instructions, allowing the K6 to be compatible with the latest software.

The K6 was originally launched running at speeds of 166 and 200 MHz. It was followed by a 233 MHz version later in the summer of 1997. These chips were compatible with HX, VX and TX chipset motherboards which supported MMX processors. The release of the 266 MHz version of this chip was not until spring 1998 when AMD were able to move to the 0.25 micron manufacturing process. The final iteration of the K6 design was released in May 1998 running at 300 MHz. The K6 is no longer in production (except in its mobile and embedded variants).

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