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AMD launches A-series Llano processors to rival Intel's Sandy Bridge

Could be a bridge too far
Tue Jun 14 2011, 05:00

CHIP DESIGNER AMD has unveiled its A-series 'Llano' accelerated processor units (APUs) to take on Intel's Sandy Bridge chips in laptops.

Forming part of AMD's Fusion line of chips, the A-series APUs will go up against Intel's Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors sporting two and four cores running at frequencies between 2.3GHz and 2.6GHz. The A-series chips complete AMD's Fusion line, with John Taylor, director of client product and software marketing at AMD saying the A-series "is the strongest platform to take business away from Intel".

The low-end dual-core A4 chips will have 35W and 45W parts that have Radeon HD 6480G graphics with 240 cores. Like all of the A-series Llano chips, the A4 will have a 'Turbo mode' that will push the A4-3300M and A4-3310MX from 1.9GHz and 2.1GHz, respectively, to 2.5GHz. Both chips will have 2MB of Level 2 cache. The Radeon HD6480G core is clocked at 444MHz.

For the mid-range, AMD's A6 3400M and 3410MX APUs also are 35W and 45W parts, respectively. The quad-core chips are clocked significantly lower than the A4 series, at 1.4GHz and 1.6GHz for the 3400M and 3410MX, respectively. In Turbo mode both chips can hit 2.3GHz. There's also a frequency cut for the 320-core Radeon HD6520G graphics in these APUs, which runs at 400MHz.

To go up against Intel's Core i7 chips, AMD has launched three quad-core A8 chips. The 3500M, 3510MX and 3530MX all feature a 400-core Radeon HD6620G core. The 3500M has a TDP of 35W while the 3510MX and 3530MX both have a TDP of 45W. All three chips have 4MB of Level 2 cache and a graphics core that runs at 444MHz. The differences come in the form of clock speed, with the 3500M, 3510MX and 3530MX sporting clock speeds of 1.5GHz, 1.8GHz and 1.9GHz, respectively, which become 2.4GHz, 2.5GHz and 2.6GHz in Turbo mode.

Out of the four A-series chips AMD released the biggest clash will be with the A6 processors, which Taylor said will provide "a very clear, compelling solution against Intel's [Core] i3 processor". Taylor said that Intel's Core i3 processor was Intel's "volume runner", so it's no surprise that AMD will be going up against Intel's cash cow so aggressively.

AMD's own figures suggest that in graphics intensive applications its A-series chips beat Intel's Sandy Bridge parts, but you would expect it to say that. Given AMD's relative expertise in graphics it's something that most would expect but the proof will be competitive performance in workloads that exercise both the CPU and GPU parts of AMD's A-series APUs.

AMD says it has worked with many software vendors to deliver GPU support in applications such as Adobe Flash, Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Office 2010, however it's likely to have the biggest advantage over Intel when games are in the mix, as Intel will not have DirectX 11 support until its Ivy Bridge line of chips tips up.

Taylor admitted that AMD "needs to overcome the perception that AMD is behind Intel in battery life". AMD is claiming 10 hours of battery life on laptops that have A-series chips in them, but until we see actual designs, 140 of which AMD claims are coming up, it will be hard to make any real decision on whether AMD is onto a winner.

AMD will be holding a big bash in Berlin later this week to show off its APUs in actual laptops with real world pricing. Until then, The INQUIRER will reserve judgement on whether Intel should be worried. µ


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