AMD launches Turion 64 mobile processors, competes with Intel's Centrino

Sunnyvale (CA) - AMD announced on Thursday its new mobile processor that will allow the company to compete with Intel's Pentium M chip and Centrino mobile platform. The company promises longer battery life, as well as latest graphics and wireless capabilities with its 64-bit Turion product.

The new Turion 64 processor marks AMD's entry in a quickly growing notebook segment that so far has been served only by Intel's Pentium M processor and Centrino platform. While the announcement generally indicates that AMD has caught up with Intel in the mobile market, the manufacturer trumps its competitor by offering a 64-bit platform. Intel has not yet announced a 64-bit move on its mobile platform - the upcoming Yonah chip will also remain a 32-bit processor.

The Turion 64 is based on the 90 nm "Lancaster" core with about 114 million transistors. The processors come with 512 kByte or 1 MByte L2 cache, 128 kByte L1 cache and support PC3200, PC2700, PC2100 and PC1600 unbuffered DDR memory. Processor speeds range from 1.6 GHz to 2.0 GHz.

AMD introduced for its Turion family a new model numbering structure that moves further away from a GHz-related designation and makes it increasingly difficult for the consumer to decide which product to choose. Turion comes in the two flavors "ML" and "MT". According to AMD Marketing manager Bahr Mahoney, the "M" stands for mobility, the second letter for the grade of mobility on an alphabetic scale between A and Z. The closer the letter to A, the "less" mobile a processor; the closer the letter to Z, the "more" mobile the chip - which makes the MT more mobile than the ML.

This letter code is complemented by a number than currently ranges from 30 to 37. A 30 indicates 1.6 GHz with 1 MByte L2 cache, 32 means 1.8 GHz / 512 kByte, 34 offers 1.8 GHz / 1 MByte and 37 2 GHz / 1 MByte. This rather confusing coding scheme results in the products ML-30, ML-32, ML-34, ML-37, MT30, MT-32, and MT-34. According to Mahoney, the number does not relate to any other AMD or Intel product, but is chosen randomly. The same is the case for the second letter of the processor designation. "It gives us room for future products, Mahoney said. He conceded that the model numbers are not very transparent to consumers and currently were only understood by sales people. But he defended the AMD version since it "does not reflect a whole basket of criteria [such as Intel's Pentium M]."

Besides a different availability of processor speeds, the ML and MT family offers different power envelopes. The "more" mobile MT offers a thermal design power (TDP) of 25 watts and comes close to the Pentium M, which hovers around 20 watts. The performance oriented ML posts a TDP of 35 watts.

Instead of offering a complete mobile platform with graphics and wireless chipsets, AMD decided to go with third party providers. Supporting graphic chipsets come from Via, Uli, ATI, Nvidia and SiS; LAN from Broadcom, Marvell and Realtek and wireless from Broadcom and Atheros.

Mahoney said that notebook manufacturers were preferred to add graphics and wireless chipsets from a range of providers on their own. "This allows them to negotiate better pricing and optimize their logistics. The processor is one of the last pieces to go into a notebook and therefore it makes little sense to have an expensive part sitting around together with the other parts." Intel usually argues that the Centrino package allows system builders to use a package that is guaranteed to work. AMD however believes offering the processor separate from chipsets will reduce validation cost and time for notebook manufacturers.

AMD said that the Turion 64 processor is available worldwide today. Initial notebooks with the chip are expected from Acer worldwide and Fujitsu Siemens in Europe. According to AMD, other manufacturers such as Asus, Averatec, BenQ, MSI and Packard Bell will offer products based on Turion 64. The new processors are priced at are priced at $354(ML-37), $263 (ML-34), $220 (ML-32), $184 (ML-30), $268 (MT-34), $225 (MT-32) and $189 (MT-30).