AMD Llano Unveiled - A Notebook Platform Preview



AMD's latest Fusion A-series processor is finally here and is the long wait worth it? We think it is because it is what processors should deliver, a good balance of both compute and graphics performance. While AMD's approach is skewed towards graphics (in-line with their Vision marketing), Intel's current Sandy Bridge is focused on delivering compelling performance in the compute environment which makes it a powerful general purpose processor. That said, it doesn't mean Sandy Bridge is not delivering great performance in its graphics, but AMD's latest A-series APUs will no doubt take some of the limelight away from Intel's Sandy Bridge.

The single most attractive feature found in the A-series APU has got to be its ability to configure its graphics in CrossFireX mode with another discrete GPU. It was good that AMD is leveraging on ATI's CrossFire technology to make this possible and we believe the integration of such technology is simply to AMD's advantage. With the Llano going into notebooks starting from today, you won't find any other affordable notebooks out there with 'Dual Graphics' except from AMD's A-series APUs. Intel would probably need to come out with another strategy to address this, else AMD would surely dominate the mainstream gaming notebook segment since the message that AMD is sending out to users is going to be pretty hard to resist. NVIDIA, on the other hand, would lose its share in the AMD notebook segment since all APUs would benefit when used along with an AMD Radeon GPU. It would be foolish for any OEMs to pair an NVIDIA GeForce with an AMD Fusion A-series APU.

All in all, the new AMD A-series APU is a serious contender to Intel's Sandy Bridge. It may not be the product that beats Intel's 2nd generation Core processor hands down, but it sure is a serious threat to Intel's dominance in the notebook segment. The AMD Fusion processor has a lot going for it especially when it comes to addressing users' need to consume media on laptops and the new APU has all it takes to deliver just that. Never mind that its integer and floating point units are less powerful, but its strength in graphics more than makes up for it. With OpenCL supported in more and more software, the GPU may just be offloading most computational work from the CPU and it will only continue to grow in AMD's favor.

For now, we can expect up to 150 designs for desktops and notebooks featuring the latest A-series APUs from OEMs in the next quarter of 2011 and beyond. While it's interesting to see what kind of products will be announced in the next couple of weeks, we are more interested to see the price point of these products as it will very much determine its success in the consumer market.

Next up - Llano for desktops. Stay tuned.

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