ADVANCED Micro Devices has announced that it has begun the sampling stage of its new AM5x86 microprocessor chip. This chip will be in direct competition with Intel's range of Pentium processors. Among the features of this chip are a quadrupled clock speed - up to 133 MHz - made possible with the 0.35-micron process technology; a 16 KB write-back cache that should boost performance by reducing CPU-write traffic on the system bus and allow the external L2 cache to be eliminated for cost-sensitive designs; an integrated floating-point unit (FPU) to accelerate maths-and graphics-intensive operations; an industry-standard system management module (SMM) that supports Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system. The chip also provides power-saving features needed by notebooks and portable computers. According to Vijay Parmar, AMD's regional marketing manager for Asia, the AM5x86 is ideal for notebook computers. The trick in designing the ideal chip for a notebook is to design with the greatest amount of power in mind, said Mr Parmar. The sampling being done at the moment refers to tests on vendors' motherboards to make certain the BIOS can identify the microprocessor. The BIOS may need minor adjustments but this is not unusual, said Mr Parmar. The Am5x86 microprocessor is also optimised for 16-bit operation. This means that as well as running 32-bit code quickly, it will also handle 16-bit code faster than other chips that have not been optimised. Mr Parmar said it would be possible to plug the AM5x86 directly into an existing 486 board, provided changes were made in the BIOS to accommodate the chip. 'We will go into production later this year,' Mr Parmar said.