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Final Words

AMD Fusion: Brazos Gets Previewed: Part 2, Performance
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Final Words

We got a very early look at Brazos, and AMD is offering something unprecedented: discrete GPU performance in a single-chip CPU/GPU package. Moreover, the company is offering impressive heat characteristics, given the complexity of what it is packing into a single die. We should clarify that AMD is aiming squarely for Intel's true blue CULV parts, by which we mean the UM Arrandales and previous generation of Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Solo, and Pentium ULV processors.

AMD is already touting over 100 Brazos design wins, which means we should see a slew of derivative notebook at CES. AMD is making a lot of noise with Brazos (specifically Zacate) as it seeks to usurp Intel in the fast-growing CULV market. However, AMD may have lost focus on the bigger picture, and that's a result of the company's performance-driven culture--to which we can certainly relate.

Of the three APUs that AMD chose to impress the press with, it understandably went for the one with a bit more of a performance edge. Unfortunately, while that does a lot for enthusiastic power users, it doesn't necessarily translate into volume or the bottom line. In general, AMD is still suffering in the mobile CPU market. Its last major successful mobile platform (in terms of sheer wins) was Puma. Those sold like hotcakes in the 15" form factor (we saw prices at $399 without rebates), but were relegated to budget product lines. AMD hardly saw any revenue beyond getting rid of legacy products.

If AMD is really dressed for success, it needs to also follow up quickly with Sabine and Ontario. As it stands, the company has an uphill battle on its hands. If you remove netbooks from the equation, 15" notebooks account for close to 50% of all notebook sales. The other 50% can be split up between 14" and 17" notebooks. For AMD to really hit a home run, we need to see how far Sabine has come along. These are numbers we have confirmed with many of our system vendor contacts, and they apply across the board, from HP, Acer, Lenovo, and Dell. Purely by the numbers, Zacate applies to roughly 7% of the current notebook market, while Ontario applies to ~15%, and mobile Llanos apply to over 75% of the notebook market.

Thin and light notebooks, all-in-one desktops, and premium netbooks are all within Zacate's target range of $500. It is a competitive solution, but the majority of laptop sales are, frankly, elsewhere. We make this point because AMD could actually underdeliver with Zacate, overdeliver with the mobile Llano and Ontario parts, and still come out on top.

So, the big question that AMD needs to address is: how much CPU performance is enough? On a netbook, it makes little sense to pay a $100 or $200 premium in order to watch 1080p video on a 10.1" screen. On a CULV or DTR notebook, this becomes more important, since you have more desktop real estate to play games and the environment conducive to enjoy multimedia. Right now, these notebooks have CPU performance to spare. AMD is pairing the Zacate APUs against the previous generation of CULV-processors from Intel: Core 2 Duo, Core Duo, and Pentium. However, according to system vendors, these notebooks will be phased out by the end of Q1'2011, which means the Zacate APUs are going to have to face off against the newer 18W UM Arrandales. These new ULV processor from Intel all carry some serious CPU horsepower.

We maintain that AMD is going to need to convince system builders that good graphics performance is better than having an overabundance of processor horsepower. AMD finally achieved a CPU design win last quarter with Sony, so the only holdout is Apple. AMD needs to get this conversation going at the consumer level, because no one is really thinking this way (though they should--we see this all of the time in the desktop space, which is much more gaming-oriented). We are currently playing in an Intel sandbox, where CPU performance is still remains at the top of the agenda list.

Available (and relevant) software needs to be driven toward GPGPU if AMD really wants to claim that having acceptable CPU and GPU performance is better than having goobs of CPU horsepower. Unfortunately, we are not at that point. AMD recently started improving its developer relations. The new AMD Fusion developer "trust fund" is actually a great way to start chipping away at the current CPU-heavy mentality.

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Top Comments
  • 22 Hide
    tsnorquist , November 16, 2010 12:00 PM
    killerclickWho the hell plays games on a netbook? Another spectacular fail for AMD.


    Probably not a lot of people, but when netbooks have the capability to play at acceptable levels for the masses, they will be great.
  • 18 Hide
    frederico , November 16, 2010 10:06 AM

    If an Intel processor and an AMD processor were exactly the same - 9 out of 10 'normal' people would choose the Intel

    The only people "in the know" are in the enthusiast segment of the market, which is a very small slice really.

    Its a constant uphill battle for AMD, but then again, if they didn't exist, we'd all be paying through the nose for slower processors
  • 11 Hide
    K2N hater , November 16, 2010 12:22 PM
    fredericoIf an Intel processor and an AMD processor were exactly the same - 9 out of 10 'normal' people would choose the IntelThe only people "in the know" are in the enthusiast segment of the market, which is a very small slice really.Its a constant uphill battle for AMD, but then again, if they didn't exist, we'd all be paying through the nose for slower processors

    The average user either picks Intel or Apple. And when the user picks Apple the CPU manufacturer is absolutely out of question.
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    ares1214 , November 16, 2010 9:51 AM
    Looking extremely impressive AMD, where as before you were a full gen behind, now id just say half gen. Make BD a big success, and you will most definitely get back in the game, however i doubt it would be enough to take the lead.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , November 16, 2010 10:06 AM
    did you realize that sometime it's as fast as the i3 with 2,2ghz?
  • 18 Hide
    frederico , November 16, 2010 10:06 AM

    If an Intel processor and an AMD processor were exactly the same - 9 out of 10 'normal' people would choose the Intel

    The only people "in the know" are in the enthusiast segment of the market, which is a very small slice really.

    Its a constant uphill battle for AMD, but then again, if they didn't exist, we'd all be paying through the nose for slower processors
  • 1 Hide
    vaughn2k , November 16, 2010 10:36 AM
    Hope it will come sooner than later...
  • 22 Hide
    tsnorquist , November 16, 2010 12:00 PM
    killerclickWho the hell plays games on a netbook? Another spectacular fail for AMD.


    Probably not a lot of people, but when netbooks have the capability to play at acceptable levels for the masses, they will be great.
  • 1 Hide
    gxpbecker , November 16, 2010 12:21 PM
    Nifty, an the best thing about AMD making high end competition for intel is price drops lol, if AMD can pull it off.
  • 5 Hide
    hannibal , November 16, 2010 12:22 PM
    Even more interesting would be a tablet that can be used to play games!
    So it could mean that we can read e-mail, read e-books watch movies and internet pages and even play with tablet-PC. Netbook is just one step ahead... Yep it is not the same as Nvidia 460, even 350 or amd 5650 from the low end (gaming), but the resolution would be smaller, so it would be possible.

    Let see what we get when this is really out.
    All in all it gives people a choice. Need more CPU and very rarely GPU power... take intel... If you don't need so much CPU power, but need GPU power chose AMD. It's good to have altenatives!
  • 11 Hide
    K2N hater , November 16, 2010 12:22 PM
    fredericoIf an Intel processor and an AMD processor were exactly the same - 9 out of 10 'normal' people would choose the IntelThe only people "in the know" are in the enthusiast segment of the market, which is a very small slice really.Its a constant uphill battle for AMD, but then again, if they didn't exist, we'd all be paying through the nose for slower processors

    The average user either picks Intel or Apple. And when the user picks Apple the CPU manufacturer is absolutely out of question.
  • -3 Hide
    theholylancer , November 16, 2010 12:24 PM
    Umm people whom play wow needs a quick fix in between other things?


    Those kind of people would indeed like a extremely portable gaming device, hell if they have a deal with some sort of internet on the go then maybe I will take the bus + subway and not drive to work.


    On other news you guys used 3.4.0 wow?! Patch 4.0.1 dropped in 12 of OCT and you can't get on the official servers w/o updating, are you guys using a private server?! Or even better a blizzard sanctioned low lat testing server?!!!!
  • 3 Hide
    burnley14 , November 16, 2010 12:49 PM
    sireangelusdid you realize that sometime it's as fast as the i3 with 2,2ghz?


    But against what is soon to become Intel's "old line." With the release of Sandy Bridge and a whole new architecture, AMD is going to need to have solid performance, at least enough to match Intel's previous offerings.
  • 3 Hide
    eyefinity , November 16, 2010 1:02 PM
    ares1214Looking extremely impressive AMD, where as before you were a full gen behind, now id just say half gen. Make BD a big success, and you will most definitely get back in the game, however i doubt it would be enough to take the lead.


    You mean a half gen ahead? Cuz this stomps atom into dust and intel has nothing close.
  • 1 Hide
    eyefinity , November 16, 2010 1:04 PM
    burnley14But against what is soon to become Intel's "old line." With the release of Sandy Bridge and a whole new architecture, AMD is going to need to have solid performance, at least enough to match Intel's previous offerings.


    Intel's "old line" is mostly on the same 32nm process of Sandy Bridge so it's not like intel has some huge miracle coming up, just a few percent more. They still have nothing close to this performance per die size and watt.
  • 1 Hide
    ScrewySqrl , November 16, 2010 1:08 PM
    theholylancer On other news you guys used 3.4.0 wow?! Patch 4.0.1 dropped in 12 of OCT and you can't get on the official servers w/o updating, are you guys using a private server?! Or even better a blizzard sanctioned low lat testing server?!!!!


    It waw probably run when 3.4.0 was the latest version, over a month ago.
  • 5 Hide
    Darkerson , November 16, 2010 1:59 PM
    Ive been a big fan of AMD and Im really rooting for them. Besides loving the great price/performance ratio they offer, I have high hopes for them and really hope BD and their other offerings are well embraced. We all know what will happen if AMD were to somehow stumble and fail. You think Intel's prices are expensive now...
  • 7 Hide
    digiex , November 16, 2010 2:08 PM
    As long as it will trash atom... It will!
  • 1 Hide
    thejerk , November 16, 2010 2:11 PM
    Highlighting the name of the item being reviewed in the graphs would be a good thing. Or, place them in the same order for comparison's sake.
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , November 16, 2010 2:23 PM
    AMD has a better graphics chip then Intel, its a total shock.
  • -4 Hide
    kelemvor4 , November 16, 2010 3:21 PM
    Wow, what a disappointment.
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