ALTHOUGH MANY punters were expecting AMD to launch an Atom-smasher, things haven't really turned out as they forecast. The company has launched the AMD Athlon Neo, but for all intents and purposes, isn't aiming at the Netbook market... at least not directly.
According to AMD, the Athlon Neo will populate the ultraportable, ultrathin segment where users are willing to drop a bit more dosh for the improved performance and user experience. Netbooks, at least the ones currently on the market, target the sub-$500 market (except where SSD options kick in). The 12-inch market is the sweet spot, although AMD considers it'll be popular in +/- an inch size lapwarmers. The Neo will fit all bills in the ultralight market, ranging from $499 to $1499. Not exactly a Netbook is it?
The specs come listed as: built on a 65nm process runs at 1.6GHz (8x200MHz), sporting 512KB of L2 cache, DDR2-667 and drawing 15W of power. It runs on a M690 chipset with the HT @ 3.6GHz. The system itself will have either the X1250 IGP (M690 chipset, DX9.0, SM2.0b, 90nm, 64MB dedicated+256MB shared) or a discrete HD 3400-series (DX10.1, DDR2, 64-bit memory interface) for the higher end parts. However, we're not quite sure why we'd need 1080p on a 12-inch display - this might just hint at HDMI being a solid possibility as a video output option.
Comparing it to the Atom is inevitable - if not to prove it isn't a direct competitor: Albeit built on last year's technology, the Athlon Neo is supposed to be much more powerful than the Atom... anywhere between 100-150% according to AMD's numbers, but on average 36% more expensive. They're also saying 4-8 hour battery life depending on the battery.
Atom, for all its "design wins", still lingers in that power consumption purgatory, as manufacturers always go for the cheap and fast 3-cell option. Early netbooks had 1H30m battery life. Today they're almost double that, save for Samsung and Asus who've done a great job at improving battery
More than fighting the Atom on specifications and superior technology, AMD's message is "you've tried Atom and it didn't deliver the performance you wanted... and it has really really crap multimedia features. Now we've got something that's slightly more expensive, but will deliver a really good overall experience without breaking the bank... or your back."
Intel will likely respond by pushing their Core Duo LV CPUs (like the L2400) and opening the flood gate on those marketing incentives that distris love so much.
It's interesting to see AMD is fighting back using Intel's own weapons. They're creating their own market niche, just like Atom did. In the end the Athlon Neo isn't really competing against the Netbook. It's a gamble, sure it is, but it's likely to pay off.
HP will be the first to market with their Neo-based HP dv2 Pavilion Entertainment Notebook PC. µ
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