Is that a supercomputer on your desk? Chip maker AMD takes quad-core processor prices below $99

When it comes to computers, four brains are better than one. And now, even mainstream consumers can afford these multiheaded beasts. Advanced Micro Devices is launching  new quad-core microprocessors for desktops priced at only $99, breaking a threshold that should lead to powerful computers at bargain prices during the holidays.

The new desktop chips are targeted at mainstream consumers who enjoy entertainment on their computers and who want to take advantage of the multimedia features built into Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 7 operating system, which launches on Oct. 22.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip maker is now selling the AMD Athlon II X4 quad-core processors with an accompanying AMD 785G chip set and an ATI Radeon HD 4200 graphics chip. AMD contends that its $99 quad-core chips offer a much better deal than similarly priced Intel dual-core processors.

AMD launched its first desktop quad-core processors in 2007 for hundreds of dollars a piece. Now it can make them much cheaper using its 45-nanometer manufacturing process, which enables the chips to be speedy yet low cost and low power at the same time. Computers with these chips can show a Blu-ray high-definition movie using less energy than a 75-watt light bulb.

Already among the customers for the new chip is Hewlett-Packard.