AMD Launches Trinity APUs to Compete With Intel Ivy Bridge Chips

AMD officials expect lower-priced ultrathin notebooks will undercut more expensive Ultrabook systems based on Intel chips.

Advanced Micro Devices officials have launched their much-anticipated Trinity processors, the second generation of their A-Series accelerated processing units that they say will bring the type of performance and power-efficiency improvements that will compete closely with rival Intel€™s Ivy Bridge architecture.

AMD executives also see advantages in graphics and pricing that will enable new systems€”particularly in the burgeoning market for ultrathin and light notebooks€”with the capabilities and low costs to make a dent in Intel€™s market share.

The new Trinity chips, launched May 15, are the successor to AMD€™s successful Llano APUs, which were released in 2011 as part of AMD€™s first wave of Fusion chips that include integrated graphics capabilities.

AMD officials are expecting the performance and power efficiency of the chips€”which will have power envelopes as low as 17 watts and offer battery life of eight hours or more€”combined with lower costs to drive OEM development of ultrathin notebooks, which will compete with the Ultrabook offerings Intel is pushing.

The ultrathins, at 22mm thick, are expected to be a little larger than Ultrabooks, though they will have the same capabilities, including instant-on and fast-response features. AMD also is offering quad-core chips for the systems. At the same time, company officials said many will hit price points of approximately $500, significantly less than current Ultrabooks, which can range from $800 to more than $1,000.

€œWe€™re taking a different tack from Intel,€ Leslie Sobon, corporate vice president for desktop product line management at AMD, told eWEEK. €œYou should not necessarily have to pay a premium for thinness.€

Intel is putting a lot of effort and resources behind the Ultrabook push, which analysts say not only is another avenue for Intel€™s push into the mobile device space, but also a way to revitalize a sluggish PC market. The almost two-dozen Ultrabooks currently on the market are running on 32-nanometer Sandy Bridge processors. However, Intel is preparing to launch versions of its 22nm Ivy Bridge processors for Ultrabooks, which will offer greater performance and power efficiency€”including the vendor€™s three-dimensional Tri-Gate transistor architecture€”and are expected to drive down the cost of the systems.

Intel last year established a $300 million fund to drive Ultrabook development, and last month kicked off a multimillion-dollar Ultrabook advertising and marketing campaign, the largest such effort since the company launched the Centrino mobile platform in 2003.

Hewlett-Packard last week rolled out the first of its Envy Sleekbooks, ultrathin systems powered by the new AMD APUs. At the same time, HP also unveiled new Envy Ultrabooks, which at a starting price of $750, are significantly higher than the $600 starting price for the Sleekbooks.

€œWe€™ll have all the usual suspects bringing ultrathins€ to market soon, Sobon said, with some of those systems makers expected to include Asus, Samsung, Lenovo, Toshiba and Sony.

The new APUs will double the performance-per-watt capabilities of the first generation, and€”with the new €œPiledriver€ core architecture and the next-generation Turbo Core technology€”will offer a 29 percent performance increase, according to AMD officials. They also will feature AMD€™s HD Media Accelerator technology for optimizing video quality and the company€™s Radeon HD 7000 Series graphics capabilities, for a 56 percent increase in graphics performance.

The new APUs come at a time of high transition for AMD, which in August appointed ex-Lenovo executive Rory Read as CEO and later hired Mark Papermaster as CTO. There also has been other turnover in the executive ranks. Read has been vocal in his belief that the pricing advantage that AMD€™s new chips can drive will be a key differentiator in the company€™s competition with Intel, saying during a conference call last month with analysts and reporters to discuss first-quarter financial numbers that AMD will enable ultrathin notebooks that are available to everyone, rather than only the €œsmall percentage€ who can afford high-priced notebooks.

AMD initially unveiled five new Trinity APUs, including two€”the quad-core A10-4655M, at 25 watts, and dual-core A6-4455M, at 17 watts€”aimed at ultrathins. The other three, with two to four cores and 35-watt power envelopes, target mainstream notebooks.