AMD’s Long Awaited Laptop Refresh Is Here

Introduction

I have been waiting for AMD to refresh their lineup and offer something to compete with Intel in more than just one segment. They currently are only competitive in the lowest price bracket of notebook PCs. Intel’s Core 2 and the new i3, i5 and i7 hold the crown for best the performance in a notebook. Intel also controls the mobile market with all netbooks running Intel Atom based processors. Take a step up to the ultra-portable notebook and Intel rules with their ultra-low voltage line of processors. AMD’s new 2010 Vision lineup of processors is fully realized with products to challenge Intel in every one of those segments they used to not be able to compete in. Let’s take a closer look if to see if they succeeded.

Netbooks

Let’s start with the netbook segment, the area AMD didn’t even have a chip to even attempt to compete with Intel. AMD has the1.2GHz single core V105 on offer to go up against the Intel Atom based processors. ‘Wait doesn’t the Atom run at 1.6GHz’ you ask? It is true that AMD’s processor has a lower clock speed. But unlike the Atom, the V105 is based off of the same architecture of the full sized chips. The Atom is a stripped down chip and therefor AMD should be able to provide a better overall computing experience.

The other factor to consider is the chipset that is paired with the processor. Intel still has not included a graphics chip the can decode video. AMD however is pairing an ATI Radeon HD 4225 and gives it the ability to playback 1080p smoothly. ‘Does one really need 1080p on a netbook’ you ask? It really only becomes something to consider if you want to connect it to your HDTV through the HDMI port.

So far this looks to kick the crap out of Intel’s offering till you look at the power usage. It states 9W under TDP (Thermal Design Power), that’s 4 more watts than Intel and Intel includes the chipset within that envelope as well. Intel will destroy AMD when it comes to battery life, which is sticking to AMD’s tradition. Which chip you buy will ultimately depend on what you want to do with your netbook, multimedia or word processing?

Ultra-Portable Notebook

AMD has been using their Neo processor’s in this segment and it offered similar performance to Intel’s ultra-low voltage chips. One area where Intel always won was in battery life and thermal characteristics. The older AMD Neo chips had a TDP range of 15 – 18W. This time around they increased the clock speed and were able to shave off 3W.

While an improvement is nice to see it still unfortunately doesn’t compare to what Intel has with their 10W Core 2 Duo or their 13 – 18W Core i3, i5 and i7. The new chips incorporate their graphics chip with their higher 18W numbers so it should even out. Intel still has the longest battery life with the Core 2 Duo and the best performance with the Core i3. i5 and i7 chips. Again we see AMD’s superior graphics chip as the one improvement they offer. This will be the most important segment over the next year or two for notebooks.

Full Size Notebooks

The Phenom II will replace the old Athlon X2, Turion X2 and Turion X2 Ultra. The V120 will be your budget entry level notebook while the dual, triple and quad core Phenom II will offer everything they need from everyday multitasking to high end production work. The black edition chips are aimed at the premium end of the laptop segment. They will make great desktop replacements for production use or gaming. They look to be strong in this segment, buts it’s the least important segment due to its lack of growth.

External Graphics

AMD’s external graphics is known as XGP. The idea is that the user could have an external box that houses a regular desktop PCI Express graphics card that connects to your notebook. You can than carry around you notebook or ultra-thin for work during the day and dock it to the XGP at night for some full fledge gaming. It allows you to carry around a much smaller notebook with far better battery when you need the portability. It also gives you an easy way to upgrade your graphics and extend the life your computer. I have always wanted something like this for notebooks and it has yet to materialize. Here is to hoping AMD can make it happen.

Conclusion

At a minimum AMD now has a full lineup of chips that will allow them to offer a product in every category of portable computing. I will have to wait and see some benchmarks and battery life comparisons before I can truly make a judgment. From the specs and information I have read I think AMD should be happy with what they have to offer. But they need to hurry up and get the Fusion platform to market for any chance to overtake Intel and actually compete rather than just play catch up.

Dave Loft

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