AMD Readies 'Trinity' Chips for Notebooks, 'Ultrathins'

AMD lost $590 million in the first quarter, but showed better-than-expected revenue and officials are optimistic about the upcoming launch of its Trinity APUs.

Advanced Micro Devices officials say they are ready to give Intel and its upcoming "Ivy Bridge" chips some competition, with systems powered by their own "Trinity" processors going on sale this quarter.

The Trinity accelerated processing units (APUs) are the next generation of mainstream desktop and notebook chips, and will follow the current "Llano" A-series processors. The Llano chips€”among the first wave of Fusion APUs with integrated high-end graphics capabilities€”were introduced last year and were among the fastest selling in company history, according to AMD officials.

The Trinity chips will "improve on virtually every aspect" of the current APUs, with greater performance, better power efficiency and graphics, and a 50 percent improvement in performance-per-watt, according to AMD CEO Rory Read.

Systems powered by Trinity chips will begin appearing this quarter, and there are a record number of system designs in the pipeline, Read said during an April 19 conference call with analysts and journalists as he announced the company's first-quarter financial numbers.

AMD lost $590 million during the quarter, thanks in large part to a $703 million charge related to its decision to shed its remaining interest in chip manufacturer Globalfoundries. Also during the quarter, AMD closed on its $334 million deal to buy microserver maker SeaMicro. However, the revenue of $1.59 billion€”though less than the $1.61 billion it generated in the first quarter of 2011€”was higher than expected, and the company expects revenue to grow another 3 percent in the second quarter.

The Trinity chips will compete with Intel's Ivy Bridge processors, the first of which are expected to hit the market this month. Intel executives are counting on the Ivy Bridge chips to fuel rapid growth in Ultrabooks, the very thin and light notebooks that the company has been championing for almost a year.

However, Read said during the conference call that with Trinity, AMD expects to be a player in the same market€”AMD executives refer to such systems as "ultrathins"€”and to beat Intel on pricing. Currently, Ultrabooks powered by Intel's "Sandy Bridge" architecture are selling for anywhere from $800 to more than $1,000, though with Ivy Bridge, Intel officials are expecting Ultrabook prices to continue dropping. However, AMD executives expect ultrathins powered by Trinity to run in the $500 range. AMD-based systems will be available for everyone, not only the "small percentage" of people who can afford high-cost notebooks.

AMD this quarter also will release "Brazos 2.0," the next generation of its C- and E-series APUs for low-power laptops. Read said the first release of Brazos helped fuel the company's growth not only in low-power, lost-cost notebooks, but also in emerging markets.

On the server side, Read said the company's Opteron chips, based on the Bulldozer architecture, are continuing to see steady adoption, and that in the first quarter, Bulldozer-based Opterons accounted for more than half of all the server chips sold. Last month Intel unveiled its latest Xeon chips, dubbed "Romley." The Xeon E5-2600 processors are designed for such uses as analytics and cloud computing.

In addition, he touted the acquisition of SeaMicro, which Read said will make the company a larger player in the rapidly expanding cloud data center market. The deal also dealt a blow to Intel, which had been working closely with SeaMicro in developing low-power, high-density systems. SeaMicro several years ago began selling its microservers powered by Intel's Atom chips, and earlier this year unveiled a microserver running a Xeon chip from Intel.