Acer chooses AMD chips for new netbooks

The category-dominating vendor is using Athlon II Neo processors

Acer on Friday announced new netbooks based on chips from Advanced Micro Devices, a win for the chip company's efforts to grab market share from rival Intel.

Acer, the world's largest netbook vendor, announced two Aspire One netbooks with AMD's Athlon II Neo K125 processors. The Aspire One AO721 and AO521 come with 11.6-inch and 10.1-inch screens, respectively, and include integrated ATI Radeon HD graphics to display high-definition multimedia content.

Intel's Atom processors go into most netbooks, the small, portable PCs designed for basic Web surfing and productivity applications.

But AMD is raising the bar in performance with its Neo chips, which, combined with graphics hardware, can process high-definition multimedia that Atom can't.

The AO521 is just under an inch thick, weighs about 2.75 pounds (1.24 kilograms) and is priced starting at US$349.99, Acer said. The AO721 netbook is similarly sized and slightly heavier, and is priced beginning at $429.99. Those system configurations are available in the U.S. and Canada; Acer did not provide information about how the netbooks, available worldwide, could be configured elsewhere.

Neo chips have until now mostly been used in the faster-performing and more expensive ultrathin laptops. In May AMD released faster and more power-efficient laptop chips, including the single-core K125 chip, which operates at a clock speed of 1.7GHz and includes 1MB of cache.

Intel's Atom chips have been criticized for limited performance and poor graphics capabilities, but the company is also looking to improve performance. It recently announced new DDR3-capable Atom netbook processors and plans to release a dual-core version of the Atom processor.

AMD has been signing up more PC makers to offer systems using its chips, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

Last month AMD said that PC makers would launch more than 135 new laptops based on its chips this year. Major vendors Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo have also started offering PCs based on AMD chips in larger numbers.

AMD has also made progress in making its chips smaller and more power-efficient. It plans next year to release chips for thin-and-light laptops that integrate the CPU and graphics processing unit in a single piece of silicon.

AMD's chips are typically cheaper, and also provide a better graphics experience than Intel's chips, Kay said. But the company can't rest on its laurels and must keep pace with Intel's chip development in order to remain competitive, Kay said. Intel is a generation ahead in the chip manufacturing process, which allows it to bring better computing performance and power-saving features to its chips.

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