Intel and AMD are locked in competition again, racing each other to produce ever faster and better computer microprocessors. AMD has led for the past two months, having introduced its super-fast 700-megahertz Athlon chip in August. The company has sold 200,000 of the chips worldwide and is expected to roll out the Athlon 800 MHz chip early next year. AMD also expects to roll out a 1 gigahertz chip before Intel by the summer. Intel is trying to narrow the gap with its latest Pentium III chip, codenamed Coppermine and released last Friday. Computer-makers IBM, Compaq, Gateway, Acer and Hewlett-Packard have announced desktops sporting the new Intel chip. Despite having a substantial lead on Intel, AMD has only secured contracts with IBM, Compaq and British-based Tiny Computer. In Hong Kong, however, AMD has scored success with local computer- and motherboard-makers VTech, MagicPro and MicroGram. Coppermine comes in two flavours for desktop PCs and for mobile PCs and has four clock speeds - 650, 667, 700 and 733 MHz. It was made using 0.18 micron technology and features a 133 MHz system bus. The chips were priced between US$309 to $767. According to sources, AMD's Athlon 800 MHz chip is expected to sell at $927. The first Athlon chips released in August were made using 0.25 micron technology, but the company has adopted 0.18 micron technology since opening a new wafer factory in Germany this month called Fab 30. 'The smaller micron simply means the voltage will be reduced. It retards the heating speed which allows the CPU to work faster without trading off stability,' AMD marketing manager Thomas Tong said. At 0.18 microns, it is easier to build mobile PCs as it takes longer for the chips to produce heat. Intel will be able to make its portables even smaller. With the help of 0.18 micron technology, the mobile version of Coppermine may have a voltage as low as 1.6v, according to Intel. This makes them well suited for its slim notebooks. The speed of system bus is another factor that affects the overall performance of the chip. Intel will run the Coppermine on 133 MHz system bus based on a i810e chipset, which it says is an enhanced version of its i810 chipset. However, Intel is still behind AMD, whose Athlon chip operates on a 200 MHz system bus. 'Once there is a head-to-head competition between Athlon and Coppermine in terms of clock speed, AMD's a sure win,' said Derek Tsang, sales manager of MagicPro, a motherboard vendor.