AMD challenges Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge processors, with an eye to powerful graphics and long battery life for ultrabook-like machines and laptops.
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AMD released its Trinity chips Tuesday, its second generation A-series APU (accelerated processing units.) These low-power chips are intended for ultrabook-like laptops, traditional laptops, and some all-in-one desktops. Trinity offers better performance and lower power utilization than the previous AMD Llano family of chips.
The new chip designs call for about 10% more transistors on a slightly larger die, using the same 32 nm manufacturing process as the previous family of chips known as Llano. However the new chip uses AMD's latest CPU core design, called Piledriver, which succeeds Bulldozer.
The chip also offers more and better graphics power (using AMD's Radeon technology.) In other words, Trinity is designed for speed and tuned for very high resolution displays.
The added transistors and higher performance all on the same process might lead you to believe the chip will be power hungry, but AMD says it has tuned power management so that a 17 watt version of Trinity will outperform the 17 watt version of Llano by a 2:1 factor. AMD also showed charts showing that Trinity chips offer about the same or superior battery life versus Intel's existing i5 chips, which have been shipping since first quarter 2011. Using various popular applications, AMD shows itself neck and neck with Intel in battery efficiency; however the comparison is with Intel Sandy Bridge chips rather than Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge chips for ultrabooks, which are said by Intel to be a good bit more power efficient than Sandy Bridge.
Whichever company's chip you choose, battery life is likely to be in the six to nine hour range for most laptop designs, which is a healthy improvement over what most of us are used to now.
Much of what's new with Trinity has to do with better graphics support. While the gamers and movie watchers will have an obvious attraction to the better video, there are business applications too, including high definition video chats, and some applications for traders where multiscreen support and high-speed rendering are important.
AMD says its new video technologies are already supported by IE, Firefox, Chrome, and Windows media player among others.
If you're a gamer, AMD says you'll notice 20 to 50% improvement over Intel's Ivy Bridge chips in performance, depending on the game and the resolution and quality. The higher you have the game's video quality settings cranked up, the better AMD will perform, AMD says. (AMD is citing third party results for Ivy Bridge performance, so the tests are not precisely apples to apples.)
Along with improvements in video and core CPU, AMD's big add is to support ultrathin device form factors. Can a mobile device be an Ultrabook if it doesn't have an Intel chip? Probably not, but it can sure look like one.
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