AMD's Trinity processors take on Intel's Ivy Bridge

The second generation of AMD's APUs provides double the performance per watt of their Llano predecessors, according to the company, which is taking aim at the ultrabooks in Intel's Ivy Bridge sights
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

AMD has revealed its answer to Intel's Ivy Bridge ultrabook chip: Trinity, the second generation of its accelerated processing unit.

AMD Trinity APU

AMD's Trinity APUs provide double the performance per watt of their Llano predecessors, according to the company. Image credit: AMD

The first generation of the APU, which combines CPU cores with a multi-core graphics processing unit (GPU), came out last year as a rival to Intel's Sandy Bridge line. Intel has already begun rolling out its higher-performance Ivy Bridge chipsets, and AMD is pitching Trinity as an even more powerful alternative for manufacturers and consumers.

"Our second-generation AMD A-Series APU is a major step forward in every performance and power dimension, allowing users to enjoy a stunning experience without having to give up the things that matter to them most," the company's vice-president Chris Cloran said in a statement on Tuesday.

Combined, the CPU and GPU cores deliver more than 700 gigaflops of computing performance — several times more than the fastest x86 CPUs.

According to AMD, Trinity has up to 12 hours of battery life and "double the performance per watt" of the first generation APU, which was codenamed Llano. Llano offered 10.5 hours of battery life. CPU performance is up 29 percent on Llano, due to the use of AMD's new Piledriver cores, which go up to 3.2GHz in clock speed.

Piledriver is the follow-on to AMD's Bulldozer technology, and supposedly allows less power leakage than its predecessor.

"Combined, the CPU and GPU cores deliver more than 700 gigaflops of computing performance — several times more than the fastest x86 CPUs — to boost performance of hundreds of applications," the chipmaker said.

One of the main attractions of the APU concept is its powerful integrated graphics. Intel's Ivy Bridge offers better integrated graphics than the earlier Sandy Bridge platform and Trinity follows suit, using Radeon HD 7000-series GPUs for a 56-percent graphics performance boost over Llano.

Trinity supports the AMD HD Media Accelerator, a bundle of technologies designed to improve media playback. The chipmaker is also providing Steady Video plug-ins for the major browsers — Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer 9 — to make in-browser video playback less jittery.

Ultra-thin devices

Although Trinity and Ivy Bridge are going to be used in mainstream notebooks as well, both platforms have been designed with the emerging ultra-thin sector in mind. The dimensions of these devices, which Intel calls ultrabooks, limit the size of their batteries, making power efficiency crucial.

Trinity APUs will come in two ultrabook-oriented types — dual-core 17W and quad-core 25W — and also in 35W dual- or quad-core incarnations for mainstream laptops. The company said the second-generation A-series APUs consume half as much power as their predecessors.

However, Trinity is built using the 32nm manufacturing process. Ivy Bridge is a 22nm platform, which should theoretically give Intel the edge on power efficiency.

As with Llano, AMD's new APUs will debut in HP laptops. In Trinity's case, they will underpin HP's new Sleekbook line, which comes out in June. AMD said it is also shipping to Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.

The ultra-thin notebook push is key for Microsoft, which is hoping the new class will boost sales of its upcoming Windows 8. Indeed, one of Trinity's features is hardware acceleration for the Windows 8 Metro user interface and Metro-style apps.

"We are excited for the introduction of the second-generation AMD A-Series APU and are confident it will continue the great work Microsoft and AMD have done together on the A-Series APU," Microsoft's Windows business planning chief, Aidan Marcuss, said in AMD's statement. "We look forward to seeing the A-Series APU in action with Windows 8 to deliver a great user experience across a variety of hardware."

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