AMD announces faster A-Series chips for laptops and desktops

Summary:AMD has updated its A-Series line of processors for mainstream laptops and desktops with new chips it says operate at faster speeds, deliver better graphics performance and include other enhancements.

AMD has updated its lineup of its A-Series processors for mainstream PCs, including eight new laptop chips and five new desktop parts. In comparison to the first A-Series processors released in June, the new chips operate at faster speeds, deliver better graphics performance and include enhancements to other features, according to AMD.

AMD refers to the A-Series as an APU, or Accelerated Processing Unit, because it includes two to four CPU cores and a Radeon GPU on the same physical die. AMD has several other APUs including the E-Series and C-Series for the Brazos netbook platform, and the Z-Series for tablets, but these are based on a different, low-power design.

The new APUs include dual-core A4 processors and quad-core A6 and A8 processors. The main difference between the quad-cores is the graphics; the A6 has 320 Radeon cores and the A8 has 400 Radeon cores. The A8 processors also have slightly higher operating frequencies. At the low end, AMD has also added a 1.8GHz dual-core laptop chip branded as the E2-3000M, which does not have AMD's Turbo Core feature.

The new line also includes the first unlocked A-Series processors, which means they can be overclocked for higher desktop performance. There are two unlocked models, the A6-3670K with four cores running at a base frequency of 2.7GHz and the top-of-the-line A8-3870K with four cores running at a base frequency of 3.0GHz. AMD claims these chips can be overclocked to add 500MHz to the CPU and 200MHz to the graphics processor.

Here's the new lineup:

New A-Series laptop APUs

  • A8-3550MX: Four CPU cores, 2.0GHz CPU base (2.7GHz Turbo Core), 400 Radeon cores
  • A8-3520M: Four CPU cores, 1.6GHz CPU base (2.5GHz Turbo Core), 400 Radeon cores
  • A6-3430MX: Four CPU cores, 1.7GHz CPU base (2.4GHz Turbo Core), 320 Radeon cores
  • A6-3420M: Four CPU cores, 1.5GHz CPU base (2.4GHz Turbo Core), 320 Radeon cores
  • A4-3330MX: Two CPU cores, 2.2GHz CPU base (2.6GHz Turbo Core), 240 Radeon cores
  • A4-3320M: Two CPU cores, 2.0GHz CPU base (2.6GHz Turbo Core), 240 Radeon cores
  • A4-3305M: Two CPU cores, 1.9GHz CPU base (2.5GHz Turbo Core), 160 Radeon cores
  • E2-3000M: Two CPU cores, 1.8GHz CPU base (2.4GHz Turbo Core), 160 Radeon cores

New A-Series desktop APUs

  • A8-3870K: Four CPU cores, 3.0GHz CPU base (unlocked), 400 Radeon cores
  • A8-3820: Four CPU cores, 2.5GHz CPU base (2.8GHz Turbo Core), 400 Radeon cores
  • A6-3670K: Four CPU cores, 2.7GHz CPU base (unlocked), 320 Radeon cores
  • A6-3620: Four CPU cores, 2.2GHz CPU base (2.5GHz Turbo Core), 320 Radeon cores
  • A4-3420: Two CPU cores, 2.8GHz CPU base, 160 Radeon cores

The unlocked processors, which will be sold as boxed upgrades from outlets such as Newegg and TigerDirect, are priced at $115 for the A6-3670K and $135 for A8-3870K. The other new A-Series desktop APUs are not on AMD's price list, but the older versions range from $66 for a dual-core A4 to $135 for the fastest A8. The company does not disclose pricing for its laptop chips.

For a mainstream processor, the A-Series has had a slow ramp in large part because AMD's manufacturing partner, GlobalFoundries, has had difficulty manufacturing the complex design in sufficient quantities on its 32nm process. By comparison, it has shipped more than 20 million E-Series and C-Series APUs since the launched in early 2011. These Brazos processors are manufactured by a different foundry, TSMC, on an established 40nm process. But today's refresh suggests that AMD and GlobalFoundries may have turned a corner on the A-Series.

Even if the supply issues are fading, AMD will continue to face stiff competition. The quad-core A-Series APUs largely compete with Intel's Core i3 dual-core processors. The reason is that AMD's CPU cores do not match the performance of Intel's fastest chips on most tests. Graphics is another story, though. The A-Series offers better graphics performance, and supports more features such as DirectX 11 and the ability to drive multiple displays.

AMD recently launched its FX processor for desktops, which has four Bulldozer modules with eight integer cores (and no GPU), but this competes largely with Intel's Core i5-2500 quad-core processor. Next year AMD plans to release a redesigned A-Series using an enhanced version of this Bulldozer core--known as Piledriver--but the timing is uncertain (the company will update its roadmap at an analyst event in February). Meanwhile Intel is set to release in the first half of next year its 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, which should significantly boost the on-die graphics performance.

The new A-Series APUs will be available starting this month. AMD said it has more than 150 laptop and desktop designs based on its APUs from companies such as Acer, Asus, Dell HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Processors


John Morris is a former executive editor at CNET Networks and senior editor at PC Magazine. He now works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made. No investment advice is offered in this blog. All duties are... Full Bio

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