AMD strikes back at Intel with Puma notebooks

Hustling to keep up with Intel Corp.'s "Santa Rosa" notebook PC system, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) said Friday it planned to launch its own new bundle of mobile processors and chipsets, code-named "Puma."

AMD will create Puma by combining a mobile processor called "Griffin" with a new RS780 chipset to allow PC vendors to build notebooks with better power management, memory efficiency and processor bandwidth than the current generation of Turion processors can achieve. It will also allow vendors to combine Griffin chips with third-party chipsets, although those systems would forfeit some power management features.

AMD hopes the Puma system will tighten its grasp on part of the hard-won notebook PC market, which was loosened on May 9 when Intel launched the Santa Rosa upgrade to its popular Centrino notebook PC platform. However, the company will have to overcome Intel's lead in bringing the product to market. AMD won't begin shipping full volumes of the parts to PC vendors until the end of 2007, so Puma notebooks will not reach store shelves until the middle of 2008.

Despite the delay, Puma will have certain advantages over Intel's new Centrino Duo and Centrino Pro, such as an ability to process Microsoft Corp.'s DirectX 10 graphics, compared to the DirectX 9 standard supported by Santa Rosa systems, one analyst said. Both platforms will handle HD-DVD and Blu-Ray high-definition video and HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) streaming.

Those features could allow AMD to build on its recent success in the server and consumer markets and reach for a greater slice of the lucrative business notebook segment, said Samir Bhavnani, director of research at Current Analysis West.

Puma will also match Santa Rosa's fast boot times and resumptions from sleep states, said Maurice Steinman, an AMD Fellow in the company's computing products group. Intel's Turbo Memory and AMD's Hyperflash both supplement the standard hard drive with solid state flash memory chips.

By building the Puma system, AMD also takes one step closer to its goal of creating a "fusion" chip by 2009 that fosters a tighter integration between AMD's traditional CPU and graphics chipsets from the recently acquired ATI, Steinman said. He demonstrated a laboratory version of the Puma laptop during a tour of the company's design center in Boxborough, Mass.

AMD already sells laptop chips under the Turion brand name, but that processor and the Opteron, Athlon and Sempron chips all share the same basic microarchitecture. With Griffin, AMD is upgrading its notebook family to handle the latest demands for graphics and bandwidth. The design shares the same processing core as the rest of AMD's latest dual-core, 65-nanometer feature chips, but changes most other features, he said.

In one improvement, Griffin chips will be able to take full advantage of Windows Vista's ability to control PC sleep states with much more frequent updates than Windows XP systems can. In another change, the chip can save battery life by detecting when a notebook PC is unplugged, and begin running PC graphics on an efficient, integrated graphics card instead of the more powerful discrete graphics card. Together, those features give Puma the potential to greatly extend notebook battery life, Steinman said.

AMD has not yet announced specific clock speeds or brand names for the Griffin and Puma products.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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