Advanced Micro Devices has announced new Phenom chips, including quad-core chips and its first triple-core processors for desktop PCs.

The company's triple-core Phenom X3 8000 series processors provide an option to mainstream PC buyers who don't want to spend on a quad-core processor but are looking for more performance than a dual-core processor, said Pat Moorhead, vice president of advanced marketing at AMD.

The chips could be used for high-definition video playback, casual mainstream gaming and productivity applications, Moorhead said.

The company's first triple-core processors include the Phenom X3 8400, which runs at 2.1GHz, and the Phenom X3 8600, which runs at 2.3GHz. Both will come with 1.5M bytes of L2 cache and 2M bytes of L3 cache.

AMD also launched three Phenom quad-core processors on Thursday - the Phenom X4 9750, which runs at 2.4Ghz; the Phenom X4 9850, which runs at 2.5GHz; and the Phenom 9100e, a low-voltage quad-core processor that runs at 1.8GHz and has a 65-watt power envelope during maximum usage. All the processors contain 2MB of L2 cache and 2MB of L3 cache.

PC makers will ship products with the quad-core processors in the second quarter, AMD said.

The triple-core processors are already shipping in volume to PC makers, AMD said. US vendor ZT Systems will list PCs with the new triple-core Phenoms on Monday, with other "major OEMs" and system vendors shipping products next quarter, AMD said. Many major vendors, including Dell and Hewlett-Packard, have already hinted at including the processors in desktops.

Dell has listed plans to use the chip in its OptiPlex 740 business desktop systems. It will ship the triple-core OptiPlex in the second quarter, a company spokeswoman recently said, but she declined to specify which processor will run the desktop. Hewlett-Packard has also listed a desktop on its Bulgarian-language website with AMD's Phenom Triple-Core 8600B processor.

Mesh Computer, a PC vendor in the UK, is offering the Matrix XXX Plus desktop with the Phenom X3 8400 processor and the Matrix XXX Pro desktop with the Phenom 8600 processor.

Because the triple-core chip is a new concept--set between the widely accepted dual- and quad-cores, it's unclear how it will fit in the market, said Dean McCarron, founder and principal at Mercury Research.

"You're going to get a performance enhancement with the extra core above and beyond a dual-core," McCarron said. But it also falls shy of a quad-core.

AMD designed the triple-core as a way to produce a cheaper chip. The triple-core processor is built on a quad-core CPU, with one core nonfunctional, McCarron said.

The triple-core chip gives AMD a tactical advantage over Intel, McCarron said. Intel will need to answer the triple-core chip with a product priced in the same range while delivering similar performance. Intel can take a dual-core or quad-core processor, adjust features like cache, and price it similar to AMD's triple-core processor, McCarron said.