Looking for Llano: Laptops with AMD's A-Series finally arrive, desktops coming soon

AMD announced new A-Series desktop processors join a lineup that includes several mobile versions. To date it's been tough to find real-world systems using the A-Series, but that is about to change.
Written by John Morris, Contributor

AMD has expanded its A-Series processor line with the first chips designed for desktops. The new chips join a lineup that includes seven mobile A-Series processors announced earlier this month. The A-Series, code-named Llano, is significant because it is AMD's first processor manufactured on an advanced 32nm process and the first mainstream chip to combine a multi-core CPU with powerful "discrete-class" GPU. To date it's been tough to find real-world systems using the A-Series, but that is about to change.

The new desktop versions include the 2.90GHz A8-3850 quad-core ($135) and the 2.60GHz A6-3650 quad-core ($115). At those prices, the A-Series quad-cores will compete with Intel's Core i3 dual-cores, in particular the 3.10GHz Core i3-2100 ($117) and 3.30GHz i3-2120 ($138). Later this year AMD will release a more powerful CPU, based on a new design known as Bulldozer, which should compete with Intel's faster Sandy Bridge quad-cores.

Desktop motherboards that support the A-Series processor are already available and the chip itself will be available from system builders and online retailers starting July 3, according to AMD. Several sites have posted reviews of the A8-3850 (my colleague, Sean Portnoy, has posted links to these reviews).

AMD announced the mobile A-Series processors on June 14. These run at lower speeds, to maximize battery life, but unlike their desktop counterparts they have TurboCore, which dynamically boosts the frequency when needed. The laptop processors include:

  • 1.9GHz A8-3530MX (4 cores)
  • 1.8GHz A8-3510MX (4 cores)
  • 1.5GHz A8-3500M (4 cores)
  • 1.6GHz A6-3410MX (4 cores)
  • 1.4GHz A6-3400 (4 cores)
  • 2.1GHz A4-3310MX (2 cores)
  • 1.9GHz A4-3300M (2 cores)

When AMD announced these, the company said they were shipping and would appear in more than more than 150 notebooks and desktops "throughout the second quarter of 2011 and beyond." To date, it's been tough to find these systems-even though HP, Toshiba and Gateway all announced A-Series laptops-but it looks like AMD may have just barely met its second quarter deadline.

HP will offer the A-Series in 11 consumer and business laptops. The Pavilion dv6z Quad Edition, is available for order direct from HP (but with a build date of July 13), as well as at Best Buy and Office Depot. The 15-inch laptop starts at $649.99 with the A6-3400M quad-core, 6GB of memory, 640GB hard drive and a Blu-ray player.

The smaller dv4 and larger dv7 are not yet available. The budget Pavilion g-series is not yet available direct from HP, but the 15-inch g6 is available online from Best Buy, Staples and Walmart. The official starting price for the g6 is $498, but Staples is offering a configuration with the A4-3300M, 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive for $349.99 after rebates. The 14-inch g4 and 17-inch g7 are not available yet either direct from HP or in stores.

Several of the ProBook business laptops are available for order direct from HP, though they do not ship until July 15. The ProBook b-series includes the 14-inch 6465b and the 15-inch 6565b-both of which start at $679 with the A4-3310MX dual-core, 4GB and a 320GB hard drive. The 15-inch 4535s is also available for order starting at $519 with the same specs as the b-series. The 14-inch 4435s and 15-inch 4436s seem to have missed HP's June 27 ship date.

Toshiba's Satellite L Series is available with either Intel second-generation Core processors or AMD's A-Series processors. The series includes the 13-inch L735, 14-inch L745, 15-inch L755 and 17-inch L755. None of these are available yet from Toshiba Direct. But Best Buy has the L745 for $529.99 with the A4-3300M dual-core, 4GB and a 640GB hard drive. (Note that Best Buy tends to list the peak speed in turbo mode, rather than the base frequency, which is likely to cause a lot of confusion.) The L755 is available online at Walmart for $548 with the A6-3400M quad-core, 4GB of memory and a 640GB hard drive. And the desktop replacement L775 is listed on several sites including Best Buy, Office Depot and Walmart. The lower-priced Satellite C600 also uses Fusion processors, but these are the low-power E- and C-Series chips announced back in January.

Gateway's 15-inch NV55S is available in two different configurations. The NV55S02u, currently available at Office Depot for $599.99, with the A6-3400M quad-core, 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive. The faster NV55S05u is also available at Office Depot for $699.99 with the A8-3500M quad-core, 6GB of memory and a 640GB hard drive. These prices are both higher than Gateway's suggested prices--$529.99 and $629.99, respectively-for the NV55S.

These A-Series laptops have only become available within the last few days and I have not seen reviews of any of these models yet. As with the desktop chip, though, several sites have posted reviews based on a notebook reference design with the A8-3500M including Anandtech, HotHardware and Tech Report.

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