Getting a jump on Intel, AMD announced its first Fusion processors on the eve of CES 2011. Like Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, AMD's Accelerated Processing Units combine a CPU and a graphics processor on a single die, but these low-power APUs are designed for different sorts of laptops, netbooks and desktops.
The low-power Brazos platform includes two new processor lines--both built on AMD's new Bobcat x86 core. The E-series (code-named Zacate) includes the 1.6GHz E-350 dual-core processor and the 1.5GHz E-240 single-core processor. These chips, which are rated at 18 watts, are designed for mainstream laptops, all-in-ones and small form factor desktops. The C-series (code-named Ontario) includes the 1.0GHz C-50 dual-core and the 1.2GHz C-30 single-core processor. Rated at 9 watts, the C-series processors are for "emerging form factors," which basically means netbooks, tablets and embedded markets.
Initially these low-power APUs seemed to narrowly targeted at ultra-thin laptops and netbooks. In September, AMD announced the Zacate version, which could extend up into some larger, mainstream notebooks. Recently AMD has also started talking about tablets and other embedded devices as well.
But when you look at the cores counts and frequencies, it seems clear that even the E-series isn't meant to compete head-to-head with Intel's Sandy Bridge in mainstream and performance laptops. AMD plans to release a different APU, the A-series (code-named Llano), in mid-2011. The A-series will be AMD's first APU manufactured by GlobalFoundries on an advanced 32nm process, and it will have up to four x86 cores (an updated Stars core) and more powerful graphics.
While these first APUs won't rival Sandy Bridge, they could deliver better performance and power efficiency in low-cost netbooks and ultra-thin laptops. AMD is emphasizing the graphics performance including the ability to play DirectX 11 games and Blu-ray video. The company is also promising "all day" battery life of more than 10 hours on idle power and around 5 hours when in active use.
Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba are all working on Fusion-based laptops. Last night I got a good look at one of the first models, Lenovo's ThinkPad X120e, an "entry-level ultraportable" with an 11.6-inch display (1366x768) and AMD E-series single- or dual-core processor. With the 6-cell battery (which sticks out the back and pushes the system weight to 3.3 pounds), the ThinkPad X120e with the dual-core E-350 should get about 5 hours of battery life, according to Lenovo. The ThinkPad X120e will be available in February starting at $400. HP has announced the competing Pavilion dm1, which is also based on an 11.6-inch display. The first model, the dm1-3020us has the AMD E-350 dual-core, 3GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive, and will be available starting next week for $450. MSI has teased an 11.6-inch laptop, the Wind U270, with an AMD E-series processor, but so far has only included Sandy Bridge-based PCs in its CES announcements.