AMD Finally Offers a Notebook Platform

Puma will be its first platform built specifically for notebooks, combining AMD chips with ATI graphics and chipsets.

AMD is kicking off the Computex show with the announcement of Puma, its first platform for the mobile computing market designed to counter Intel's successful Centrino platform.

Puma combines a new AMD Turion X2 dual-core mobile processor with ATI Radeon HD 3000 graphics and an ATI chipset. This new platform already has a number of OEM design wins, including Acer, Fujitsu, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, MSI, NEC and Toshiba.

The effort marks AMD's first unified platform of CPU, graphics and chipset. It's also the first time AMD (NYSE: AMD) has a real laptop story to tell.

Until now, the company has just taken its desktop parts and tuned them down a little for laptops. Using that approach, AMD has done fairly well in the mobile market. But now it actually has a mobile-specific platform, which can only help against Centrino, one analyst said.

"With this new Puma platform, they have, for the first time, actually tried to think about what a chip inside notebook needs versus what one inside the desktop needs, and they've changed the design in many ways to save power without compromising performance in this mobile environment," said Nathan Brookwood, research fellow with Insight64.

The Puma platform is launching with 2.4GHz and 2.1GHz dual-core processors, which include mobile-specific enhancements like core power management for idle states and battery management; and AMD's M780G and SB700 chipset, which features the ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics. The graphics processor was top of the line two years ago and delivers DirectX 10 support for Vista and 1080p HD video playback.

AMD has no plans for quad-core notebooks for now, nor is it interested in pumping up the CPU speed.

"The processor has become a less-important criteria in the purchase of a notebook compared to memory, the screen and graphics performance," Bahr Mahony, director of AMD's mobile division, told

However, it won't be the CPU keeping AMD from targeting the enterprise with the Puma. Instead, that decision is due to battery life: Puma will offer between 4.5 to five hours of battery life, but OEMs want five to six hours for business customers, Mahony said.

Still, battery life is a chief factor in many of Puma's elements. The design's 780 chipset has a feature called PowerXpress that allows the notebook to switch between integrated and discrete graphics on the notebook.

As a result, OEMs can build the notebook with a discrete graphics processor -- either AMD's or nVidia's -- and then the user can switch between the integrated and discrete graphics depending on the performance or power savings they want.

Switching from discrete to integrated graphics can mean 90 more minutes of battery life, Mahony said.

Along with becoming AMD's first unified CPU, graphics and chipset platform, Puma also assists the company in planning for the future, Mahony said.

"We found the platform to be a significant milestone for us," he said. "We were able to achieve balance throughout the platform and that experience will be vital for the next platform, Fusion."

Brookwood said it does help AMD catch up to Intel in the area of platform integration, since Intel has had something similar for a while. It offers CPU and chipset integration with a GPU, either AMD's or nVidia's, on its laptop platform. Still, he felt Puma is a big help for AMD.

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Tags: video, Vista, Intel, AMD, nVidia

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