When it comes to mobile PC hardware, only Intel can deliver the goods, right? Not if AMD has got anything to say about it. In a global launch event held at the Shangri-La hotel today, the world's second largest x86 microprocessor company unveiled its new line of Fusion APUs codenamed Ontario and Zacate, which are designed to transform the laptops of today into portable supercomputers. VR-Zone brings you the coverage.
Don’t tell mom and dad (or your significant other), but this is a good time to start thinking of how to engineer a catastrophic hardware failure in your current laptop or notebook if you plan to treat yourself to a new mobile computer this year. And when you do, don’t be surprised to see your new machine sporting a red AMD Vision logo on the palmrest instead of the typical blue Intel Inside badge that we have all come to know and expect.
If you are wondering why this is so, the answer is simple. AMD has just announced the launch of its new Zacate and Ontario APUs for mobile computers, which the chip company claims are powerful enough to transform netbooks and laptops into portable supercomputers. With over 35 system designs and 25 new motherboard designs, it is clear that AMD is ushering in 2011 with guns blazing.
According to AMD Vice President of World Wide Product Marketing, Leslie Sobon (pictured below), the company’s new APUs are nothing short of a wake up call to the competition that the Sunnyvale chip giant is no longer contended about playing second fiddle to the likes of Intel.
Describing the new APUs as the key to taking mobile computing performance to the next level, Sobon claimed that AMD started on the development of such processors to bring a superior and more intuitive user experience for consumers.
“Historically in the PC industry, producing mobile hardware involves making tradeoffs between portability and performance. But here at AMD, we want to have our cake and eat it. We didn’t want to give up performance in favor of design and sleekness, and neither do consumers. And that is the real beauty of the APU,” she explained.
To prove her point, Sobon listed three well-known ‘myths’ propagated by its competitors that were soundly debunked by the introduction of AMD’s new Zacate and Ontario APUs for mobile computers.
“We’re here to tell you that ‘good enough’ graphics are never ever ‘good enough’. Our low-power Fusion APU today has 90 gigaflops of computing capability. That is more than the flagship Core i7 (Sandy Bridge) product in the market today. With our Fusion APUs, performance is no longer limited by the size or cost of your machine. Ontario, especially, will put an end to the term ‘netbook’ because they will have the same processing power and functionality as a larger notebook at a fraction of the cost,” she explained.
Also present at the launch was Corporate Vice President and CTO of AMD’s client Division, Joe Macri, who spoke about how the new APUs differ significantly from the older integrated graphics solutions, right down to the architecture level.
“Unlike integrated graphics that were bottlenecked by the enormous memory bandwidth which was restricted by the PCIe express bus, the APU changes everything. It is a whole new architecture: because the GPU is now on the same chip as the CPU, we can match the memory bandwidth to the on-chip bandwidth, and we can fully exploit the power of that GPU,” he explained.
In addition to that, Macri also described how AMD’s new Fusion APUs have the potential to greatly simplify the tasks developers have in producing highly-optimized software applications.
“We want to abstract away the hardware for developers so that they don’t get distracted. If you look at the software stack today, a lot of it is all about abstracting the hardware. This is done in the driver and domain libraries. This allows developers to focus on their compute software. We will preserve this abstraction in the new Fusion APUs, but things can be improved, like the driver stack,” he said, while adding that AMD has been hard at work at improving aspects such as memory utilization and support for existing standards like OpenCL, Microsoft DirectX11’s DirectCompute and the third generation PCIe specifications.
In addition, AMD Corporate Vice President and General Manager GPU Division, Matt Skynner spoke about how the company’s broad support for DirectX11 ensures that gamers will get nothing but the most realistic looking graphics.
“We worked really hard with the ecosystem on DirectX11. And why? Because our mission is to put reality on the screen, and DirectX 11 is another step on that path. Therefore, we worked hard with developers and expanded the ecosystem. We were the first to have hardware support for DirectX11, and developers can use our hardware as a basis to program those games. And Sandy Bridge is still on DirectX 10.1; you can’t play a DirectX11 game on Sandy Bridge,” he said.
Last but not least, Skynner also talked about the AMD Radeon HD 6000M series of mobile graphics cards.
“From a performance point of view, the AMD Radeon HD 6970M is the fastest mobile GPU you can find. With 1.3 teraflops of computing power, 1.7 billion transistors and 2 gigabytes of graphics memory, you can play most graphically intensive games on your notebooks,” he said.