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1/13/2010
10:19 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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AMD Fields Triple Core Processor To Boost Mobile Graphics

AMD is bring an interesting twist to the processor wars. The scrappy semiconductor maker will be offering a triple core--count 'em, three--mobile chip as part of its new "Danube" laptop platform.

AMD is bring an interesting twist to the processor wars. The scrappy semiconductor maker will be offering a triple core--count 'em, three--mobile chip as part of its new "Danube" laptop platform.Here's the squib from AMD:

"At CES last week, we demonstrated a laptop reference design based on our mainstream notebook platform codenamed "Danube" which is planned to be announced in the second quarter of 2010. The platform will offer two to four cores depending on customer design preferences. "

The two, three, and four core processors will be fabricated in 45nm. That's still pretty much cutting edge for laptops, though servers and desktops are jumping to next-gen 32nm technology, which supports smaller on-chip feature sizes and lower-power operation. (Intel is readying hybrid 32nm/45nm mobile parts for 2010.)

Danube will support DDR3 member and the DirectX 11 mobile discrete graphics option.

What I find most interesting, beyond the processor news, is the whole "platformization" angle. If you click on the PowerPoints below, you'll see that AMD has a bunch of laptop platforms in the pipeline.

So, rather than simply fielding processors, AMD is providing ODMs with a integrated design. This enables them to carry to the next level two defining elements of next-gen laptop performance. These would be graphics and power management.

On the graphics front, the Danube platform, out this year, integrates Direct X 11, which is billed as delivering "entertainment" quality graphics. This is marketing terminology, but it's useful to convey the video-viewing and games-playing capabilities being supported.

Danube also boasts 7 hours of "resting" battery life. As with all battery claims, your mileage may vary, but the point is that power management has been designed into both the processor and the platform.

AMD will follow up Danube with the Sabine platform in 2011, amping up graphics and power efficiency even further.

Two additional notebook platforms (click those PowerPoints, below) are aimed at ultrathin notebook designs. These are the "Second Gen Ultrathin" and "Nile" platforms. Will ultrathins displace netbooks? I think not, but they're an important niche nevertheless.

Moving forward, the key design element to note is that graphics will become more integral to processor design in both the mobile and desktop spaces, with on-chip GPUs embedded on the silicon itself.



AMD's new notebook platforms include Danube, which will have available triple- and quad-core mobile processors.(Click picture to enlarge, and to see 3 additional slides.)

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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.

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