AMD sets its sights on laptops

The Puma platform can help Vista notebooks compete with Apple's offerings. Now OEMs have to do their part

At the logic level, MacBook, the benchmark for success in mainstream notebooks, is unremarkable -- indistinguishable from every PC notebook built on Intel Core 2 and its chipset-integrated graphics. Why, then, can't anyone with the same parts list emulate Apple's growth in an otherwise stagnant notebook market? Because Apple painstakingly hand-optimized its OS for a tiny variety of hardware architectures, presently Intel Core 2, while Microsoft wrote Vista to run on absolutely everything. No PC notebook maker can take the proprietary route that Apple plays to such advantage.

Microsoft can't crank out proprietary cuts of Vista for each notebook vendor's choice of suppliers. The best hope is a hardware architecture that's optimized for Vista. Not only that, but optimized for 64-bit Vista running on a battery. That radical objective drove AMD's design for the total notebook platform nicknamed Puma, and now dubbed, temporarily I hope, AMD's Next Generation Notebook Platform. This platform's Turion X2 Ultra 64 CPU is not cut from the common cloth of adapted desktop platforms like Core 2 that rely on machinations of the OS to balance performance with battery life. The combination of Turion X2 Ultra 64, AMD/ATI scalable graphics technology, AMD's M780G bus interface, and SB700 South Bridge, all connected via AMD's Hypertransport 3 bus, are core to AMD's recipe for consumer, business, and high-end notebooks. OEMs have just one number to call for platform parts. AMD doesn't make Wi-Fi, so it set up close partnerships with Broadcom and others to add 802.11n wireless to an integrated supply chain.

To a notebook OEM, a standardized bill of materials that covers a whole product line is a dream come true. That explains why global and US first-tier notebook vendors including Acer, Fujitsu, NEC, and Toshiba put Turion X2 Ultra 64 models on the street on AMD's June 4th launch day. There are other notable names on AMD's list of notebook wins, but for reasons that one needn't strain to understand, they're not rocking the boat with a big fuss on AMD Notebook Platform Day.

Deadlines demand that I give the specifics of AMD's new notebook platform shorter shrift than I'd like. Apart from the freshly baked, notebook-specific CPU, the platform's defining aspect is graphics. ATI's continuum of graphics solutions for this platform provides OEMs with the ability to build systems with integrated, hybrid (integrated plus discrete), and discrete GPUs without major redesign. I am no fan of integrated graphics, but AMD is mighty proud of its integrated performance relative to Intel's. I have no trouble imagining that, since a box of crayons and a pane of glass can outperform Intel integrated graphics. Maybe that's how Apple does it ...

AMD's Hybrid Graphics design allows system designers to add a discrete ATI GPU to the motherboard, with the advantage that the integrated and discrete GPUs will work together in one notebook to balance performance with battery life. Notebooks with discrete-only GPU designs will run graphics solely from dedicated video RAM, leaving main memory alone and boosting total system performance substantially.

AMD made it so easy for OEMs to choose from among these options that notebook buyers will see models with performance/weight/battery life balances that weren't possible before. For the past two years, a desire for that range of choice in one vendor's notebook product line has sent buyers to Apple. If a vendor standardizes on AMD's Next Generation Notebook Platform, AMD's technology raises performance levels at all price points beyond what Intel can deliver. The time I've spent with Puma's engineers leaves me comfortable with that assertion.

How far AMD carries notebook technology past Intel's unimpressive status quo is a question that needs answering. As soon as I land a notebook for review, I'll quantify the platform's advantages for you, and dig into that tough metric that I consider so vital: battery life with a discrete GPU. I'm desperate to be impressed by a notebook that doesn't bear an Apple logo. I have a strong feeling that when that glorious day comes, AMD will have made it happen.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Yager

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?