The team at NotebookReview.com just finished our in-depth look at the latest generation of AMD's "Accelerated Processing Unit" (APU) technology. Code named "Trinity" this complex processor combines a central processing unit (CPU) and a graphics processor (GPU) onto a single chip while promising lower power consumption. Keep reading to see if your next laptop should have AMD inside.
Those of our readers who stay up to date on the latest processor technology have probably heard about AMD's FUSION. FUSION is what AMD calls its Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) technology. The first FUSION processors were the part of the Brazos platform of C-series and E-series processors (code named "Zacate") for the entry-level laptop market. Later in 2011 AMD released its first A-series processors (code named "Llano") which quickly found their way into a wide range of mainstream notebooks.
The New A-Team
The Trinity APUs consists of the three different classes of A-series APUs (A6, A8, and A10) that are divided into two categories; mainstream and ultrathin. The A6 APUs have dual-core CPUs inside while the A8 and A10 chips pack quad-core processors. The important bit of technical minutia to be aware of is that the new Trinity APUs have undergone a radical change in thermal design packages (TDPs). Last year's A-series processors ran at either 35 or 45 watts ... meaning they were intended for mid-range and high-performance notebooks but not ultrathin laptops. The wizards at AMD found a way to DOUBLE the computational performance per watt but at TDPs of just 17 to 35 watts. That directly translates into thinner notebooks and longer battery life.
AMD "Trinity" APU Specs:
|APU Model||AMD Radeon Graphics||TDP||CPU Cores||CPU Clock Speed (Base/Max)||GPU Cores||GPU Clock|
The base clock speeds for the A-series notebook APUs range from 1.9GHz to 2.7GHz and higher clock speeds are reached via AMD's "Turbo Core" technology. Turbo Core works in much the same way as Intel's TurboBoost technology by up-clocking one or more cores depending on the processor demands of the software you're running. Unlike TurboBoost, AMD's Turbo Core bases its clock speed increases on the workload of the APU rather than thermal measurements of processor activity.
AMD claims an increase in CPU performance of up to 29 percent and an increase of graphics performance up to 56% over the previous generation of A-series processors. Granted the 29 percent CPU performance boost is pretty impressive, but it's that 56 percent increase in the GPU that will be of most interest to gamers. Whether you're a casual gamer who likes playing web-based games or a hardcore gamer who stands in line for every new release in the Call of Duty series, the GPU inside the new A-series APU genuinely lives up to AMD's label of "discrete-class graphics." We'll save the details for the benchmarking section of this review, but let's just say there's a reason the GPU takes up half the space on this chip.
Another key talking point about the new A-series processors is the AMD HD Media Accelerator, which combines a unique set of technologies designed to optimize the video quality of Internet video content and accelerate video file conversion. Translation: Youtube videos look better and transcoding videos from your video editing software to your iPad or from the Internet to a DVD should happen faster than you expect.
AMD Trinity versus Intel Ivy Bridge: Who Cares About Ultrabooks?
It shouldn't come as a shock that AMD is positioning these new A-series processors as direct competitors to Intel's 3rd generation Core-series processors (code-named Ivy Bridge). More to the point, AMD specifically designed the A10-4655M (25W TDP) and A6-4455M (17W TDP) to match Intel’s efforts in the ultrabook space. AMD's Start Now technology lets a computer resume from sleep in as little as two seconds or even perform a cold boot in as few as 10 seconds ... provided your notebook has a fast SSD that isn't loaded with bloatware. That sounds suspiciously similar to the claims Intel has been making about quick boot and resume-from-sleep speeds on ultrabooks.
Intel might claim ownership of the name "ultrabook" but that isn't going to stop a number of notebook manufacturers from offering thin and light laptops with virtually identical specs but loaded with AMD processors and a substantially lower price. HP has already announced their AMD-powered "Sleekbooks" which will have starting prices around $600 (at least $200 less than the price of a similarly equipped Intel-powered ultrabook.
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