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AMD Puma: Loving The Code Name, Liking The Concept

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AMD has finally taken the covers off a platform that could yield the benefits that many of us were expecting from the company’s acquisition of ATI. There has been some hype around the Internet about AMD Puma, aka Turion Ultra. Many people are calling it a Centrino Killer, and I’m doing my best to strip away all the marketing fluff while determining the market this platform will appeal to.

So, let’s see. AMD has not been known of late for making ultra-efficient CPUs like Intel, and the Turion Ultra CPU has not changed much from the previous generation. Yes, the new Turion Ultra processors feature 2MB of cache as opposed to 1MB, but the TDP has not decreased; I believe we’re still looking at 32- to 35-watt processors.

Take it from someone who knows notebook design; when you’re trying to cool a high-density processor with 2MB of cache, it does not make things easy. In fact, it makes our lives downright difficult when you include a discrete GPU, as well. (But what if we didn’t have to worry about a high-powered GPU? More on that in a moment.)

So, while Intel is toying with 12 to 20W processors in the ultraportable category, AMD is still back in 2005 with its 35W part. AMD has also introduced some new battery-saving elements into the platform, but as far as I’m concerned, the best and only way to save battery is to use more efficient components.

On the graphics side, it’s a very different story. AMD-ATI has always been known for creating unique mobile platforms with great image quality. Though it has faced fierce competition from Nvidia, thanks to MXM and some of the previous-generation GPUs, things are starting to change. In the mobile battle, I would say that AMD has some slight advantages for the moment.

Nvidia chose a strategic direction that sort of put it at odds with Intel—and Nvidia was quite open about this at CES—but as history has shown, these relationships can usually be rebuilt overnight.

Oddly enough, AMD seems to be Intel’s preferred partner for discrete graphics, at least until Intel gets its own graphics off the ground. ATI has the distinct advantage of being integrated with a CPU company, therefore it can work with AMD’s CPU people to create unique platforms in volume. So, one could say that they are the preferred partner of AMD, too.

AMD’s latest Radeon HD 3000 and HD 4000 chipsets have given us compelling reasons to use the company’s graphics in current and future platforms. Seriously, in case you haven’t seen these things, everything has changed, from image quality to feature set and software.

AMD has nothing to lose; following the acquisition of ATI, it lost market share and was simply out-executed by Intel, and had no choice but to focus on its longterm plan. It seems to be paying off.

So now you have a so-so CPU coupled with a killer IGP, thanks to the graphics side of the house. What does that mean in terms of platform development?

On the ultraportable side, Intel wins hands-down. On the enthusiast side, I’d have to give it to Intel, as well, when coupled with discrete graphics from ei-ther AMD or Nvidia. You won’t see any bleeding-edge thin-and-light designs with Puma inside, but you might see some killer budget notebooks taking the sub-$1,000 market by storm. This should not be taken lightly; it’s the bulk of the overall notebook market and is growing at an astonishing rate.

So, while Puma may not deliver the ultimate in battery life or cutting-edge design, if AMD can deliver on its promise, the platform will crush the competition in the area of price/performance. The bottom line is Puma is a cool platform with great new possibilities.

You gotta love competition. I have to wonder if Intel will cut its prices in half just to make it hard to switch over. I also have to wonder whether AMD can execute in volume; I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Source of Information : Computer Power User September 2008 by Rahul Sood's

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