AMD dual-core is here! The company today officially launched its first dual-core processor. Hot on the tails of Intel, who launched their Pentium 4 Extreme Edition on Monday this week, AMD's first offering is the Opteron 800-series for servers. This will be followed by the 200-series for workstations in May. The X2 targeting desktops is expected to be with us in June of this year.

By packing two CPU cores onto a single chip die, AMD claims its new Opterons offer up to a 90 percent performance boost. The company says its dual-core chips use the same power and infrastructure as their single-core brethren, meaning a new chipset will not be required - only a BIOS upgrade.

Available from launch is the 800-series for 4-way and 8-way servers as models 865 (1.8 GHz), 870 (2.0 GHz), and 875 (2.2 GHz). For us desktop users, the AMD's Athlon 64 X2 will be with us soon, but it should be noted that this is not AMD's recommended chip for gamers. That duty still falls on the high-end Athlon 64 FX.

AMD's Athlon 64 X2 will not replace its high-end Athlon 64 FX processor that is designed for gaming. Because most games are not written to take advantage of the new chips, AMD says X2 will primarily benefit digital media enthusiasts and PC users who run multiple applications simultaneously.

Now for the sorry bit - the price. As was previously leaked, things are looking pretty expensive.

AMD will take advantage of its dual-core offering by pricing the processors at the very high end of its lineup. The 865 chip is priced at $1514, the 870 at $2149 and the 875 at $2649 - translating into price premiums between 170 and more than 320 percent compared to the respective single-cores. The 200 series will be available from $851 to $1299 with premiums ranging between 200 and more than 400 percent. Corresponding 1-way Opterons 165, 170 and 175 are indicated in AMD's Opteron spec sheets, pricing however has not been announced yet.

The X2 processor will be offered at similarly high price levels with the top model 4800+ breaking the $1000 mark ($1001). The 4600+ will cost $803, the 4400+ $581, and the 4200+ $537. The currently fastest single-core Athlon (4000+) is priced at $643, the high-end FX-55 at $827.