AMD Launches Puma Platform: Will Turion X2 Ultra Bite?


Taipei (Taiwan) - We have to look back about two years to find examples of an advantage for AMD over Intel. The green team has been on a rough ride ever since Core 2 Duo was launched, but it seems that Puma may create breathing room for AMD. Intel’s Centrino 2 is delayed and AMD’s new platform built around the Turion X2 Ultra has a real advantage over its rival for now. The question will be: Can AMD benefit from this advantage?

Ever since we first heard about Puma and the Griffin processor, it appeared that AMD was very cautious about building up any hopes that this platform and CPU will make the company much more competitive in the mobile market, which is the segment that is driving market growth for CPU manufacturers today. That approach caused us to be very conservative with our expectations for this platform and recent information coming from Taiwan appeared to support our opinion.

AMD formally announced Griffin - Turion X2 Ultra - and remains careful about comparing its own CPU against Intel’s CPU and our sources claim that there is a reason behind that marketing strategy - apparently, the Ultra isn’t a match for Core 2 Duo at this time. But the mobile market isn’t just a CPU game. It has become a platform game and this is where AMD can shine, especially because Intel had to delay its Centrino 2 platform and AMD now hopes that Intel will miss the back-to-school boat.

In addition to three Turion X2 Ultra dual-core processors clocked at 2.0, 2.2 and 2.4 GHz, the AMD platform includes the mainstream-targeted M780G chipset (a carry-over from the desktop), third-party wireless options (Atheros, Broadcom, Marvell, Ralink) as well as the mobility Radeon HD3000 of graphics solutions. On the very low-end, there is the HD3200 integrated graphics chipset, while discrete GPUs include the 3470, 3670 and 3870. Since the M780G chipset supports Hybrid CrossfireX, AMD also offers a 3450 Hybrid X2 GPU, which can be coupled with the HD 3200 for a hybrid graphics solution (chipset and GPU combined).

AMD may not have the edge in CPU performance, but it does outrun Intel in graphics performance. Not surprisingly, AMD found that its own chipset crushes Intel’s chipset in common benchmarks as well as HD video performance and even suggests that its hybrid graphics solutions is about 70% faster than a Core 2 Duo notebook with Nvidia’s 8400M graphics chip.

And interesting side note about Puma is the fact that a previous key feature - Hyperflash - is missing. AMD representatives told us they dropped the flash cache technology, which was similar to Intel’s Robson flash cache, earlier this year - apparently just after CES 2008.

We were told that Turion X2 Ultra notebooks are expected to become available for about $800 and up, a market that includes desktop replacement as well as thin and light notebooks for the consumer and SMD markets. According to AMD these segments represent about 80% of the notebook market today.

Just in case you are wondering (we were): The name Turion X2 Ultra does not mean that this CPU is just an update of Turion X2 and a simple transition product that is designed to bridge the gap between the Turion X2 and Fusion. AMD told us that Puma is a "full platform" launch. Fusion, by the way, is on schedule to launch in the first half of 2010, AMD said.