AMD has just launched its second generation of Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) which was formerly codenamed “Trinity”. According to AMD, this design doubles the performance per watt when compared to the first generation APUs. It also brings performance increases of 29% in general processing, and 56% in graphics processing – that’s according to AMD.
Both improvements come from updated the “Piledriver” CPU core design along with better GPU cores. Both are the foundation of this new AMD A-Series that has been created for a thermal design point (TDP) of 17W (compared 35W for the prior generation) – TDP is correlated to the power consumption.
A quick look at the chip instantly shows how important graphics is to AMD: the graphics processor takes up just about half of the chip, but keep in mind that AMD’s GPUs can also perform some general-purpose computing tasks, if the application use the OpenCL API.
This design also brings Turbo Core to both the CPU cores and graphics cores. Turbo Core is the ability to automatically increase the frequency of the chip if the thermal constraints allow. This was previously limited to the CPU cores only, so depending of the nature of the workload, being able to “overclock” the proper chip blocks. PC makers also have the option of adding a separate AMD graphics chip, and in that case, both integrated and discrete GPUs can work together to increase performance.
Overall, this second generation of AMD APUs is a clear improvement, but AMD’s environment remains as competitive as ever. With Intel improving its integrated graphics solutions, and now adopting DX11, this is still a tight fight. I would typically expect Intel’s offering to win the pure “CPU” benchmarks, while AMD would gain an advantage in terms of battery life. I’m just about sure that independent benchmarks will confirm this.
The key idea here is that for many laptop users, battery life is actually more important than pure processing power, that’s why HP has come up with its Sleekbook laptop, which is thin and designed to have a great battery life. I don’t expect “gamers” to get systems like these, but AMD should do pretty well with laptops costing $600 to $700, while Ultrabooks can go much higher in prices.
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