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AMD processor provides power-managed performance

Posted: 22 May 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AMD chips  Puma platform  Intel chips 

In response to Intel's Centrino chips for sockets in high-end notebooks, Advanced Micro Devices has introduced a processor designed specifically for mobile PCs that pairs with its forthcoming Puma platform. AMD's new Griffin CPU features include putting its two cores on separate power planes so they can be independently managed.

AMD's new Griffin CPU is roughly on par with Intel's current notebook CPU in power-managed performance. That's thanks in part to a broad range of CPU features including putting its two cores on separate power planes so they can be independently managed.

The Puma chipset is where AMD gets its edge with features it is offering as much as six months before Intel. Puma supports the latest Microsoft DX10 graphics application programming interface, hardware support for H.264 for high-definition DVD decode, 5GHz PCI Express ports and both the HDMI and emerging DisplayPort interfaces.

Intel's current Santa Rosa chipset supports none of these features. Intel will catch up with some but not all these features with a Montevina chipset it will release in the second half of 2008.

Montevina will support DX10 graphics and H.264 acceleration for playback of one high def movie. However, Intel does not expect to support 5GHz Express until 2010, in part because keeping power low is more important than ratcheting up from the existing 2.5GHz Express interface. Similarly, Intel will not expose on notebook CPUs its emerging Common Systems Interface until sometime after 2009.

That said, Intel has two great advantages over Puma with its current chipset. Santa Rosa supports so-called Intel Turbo Memory (aka Robson) that caches data and applications in 1-2GB of flash on a miniPCI card. That can speed up the process of booting the operating system and loading applications. Intel is exploring other features it could accelerate with its flash approach in the future.

AMD supports Microsoft's approach to the concept that puts flash in a so-called hybrid hard drive. However, the drives so far only include 256MB flash and Microsoft's algorithms, ironically, are said to be less effective than Intel's in delivering performance boosts. Drive makers such as Samsung are showing prototypes with 512MB flash but have not announced when they will ship.

Separately, Intel has created applications under the Centrino Pro brand that lets IT managers remotely control and boot a notebook, even over a wireless Internet link. Intel took a savvy approach to running those apps on a "distributed microcontroller that uses gates in the Intel chipset, Wi-Fi and Ethernet chips," said Tom Shewchuk, Santa Rosa platform manager at Intel.

Thus OEMs who opt to use AMD chips—or even Ethernet or 802.11n chips from Atheros, Broadcom or other suppliers—don't get the Intel management applications.

The current generation, heated as it is, is just a warm up for a 2009 battle when AMD debuts its Fusion processors that integrate CPU and graphics cores for notebooks. Intel has suggested it will take a roughly similar path.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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