Intel, VIA, and ARM have been duking it out in the low power, low price laptop market for the past three years. And while Intel’s Atom chips are the reigning champs at the moment, Freescale, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and a number of other companies with ARM-based chips could put a serious dent in Intel’s lead if so-called “smartbooks” with integrated 3G and always-connected internet access start to take off.
But what about AMD? When it comes to desktop and higher end laptop chips, AMD is Intel’s biggest rival. But the company has been all-but-absent in the netbook space. Sure, there are a few relatively low power and inexpensive chips in AMD’s lineup such as the AMD Neo MV-40. But very few laptops use that chipset, and those that do tend to get horrible battery life.
But it looks like AMD plans to start taking the netbook space more seriously in 2011. That’s when Hardware Central reports AMD will launch a new chip as part of its “Fusion” line that’s set to compete with Intel’s Atom chips.
Like the Intel Atom Pine Trail chip, AMD’s new processor will combine graphics and processing functions onto a single chip, which will use somewhere around 10 to 15 watts. That’s more power than an Atom chip uses, but much less than a typical AMD (or Intel, for that matter) laptop chip.
The primary difference between AMD’s low power chip and the Intel Atom will be that AMD’s integrated graphics will be more on-par with a dedicated graphics card. AMD owns graphics card maker ATI. So while you pretty much need a Broadcom HD video accelerator or an NVIDIA ION card in order to watch 1080p HD video on an Atom powered netbook, machines with AMD’s upcoming chip should be able to handle HD video out of the box.
The AMD processor will be aimed primarily at notebooks with screen sizes of 12 inches or less.
While entering the netbook space more than 3 years after the launch of the first netbook might seem like a bad idea, one of the biggest complaints people have about today’s netbooks is that they aren’t powerful enough to perform certain tasks. If AMD and its hardware partners market the new platform to customers looking for thin and light laptops at a reasonable price with more powerful processors and graphics than you can find from an Atom based system, the company might be able to carve out a new niche — or redefine the market. Or maybe people will just compare the new platform favorably or unfavorably to Intel’s CULV processor line.