Better Integrated Graphics in New AMD Llano APUs

Just like Intel, AMD is combining the processor and graphics core into a single piece of silicon in its latest Fusion platform for laptops. The difference is that AMD can leverage its merger with ATI to bring much better integrated graphics to the table. This is good news for gaming on budget and small form factor laptops. The company has also decided to call its new combo silicon an “APU” (Accelerated Processing Unit) instead of CPU and GPU respectively.

HP Pavilion dv4

HP's Pavilion dv4: Now with AMD Fusion APUs

So far, only the lower end of the mobile Fusion lineup has been released on the market in small and cheap laptops such as the HP dm1z and Sony VAIO YB series, but now AMD releases Fusion for the middle class. The new processors are based on the same basic architecture as the Phenom II, but with an unusually powerful integrated GPU which should cut the price, lower power consumption and not at least offer much better (graphics) performance than Intel’s Sandy Bridge HD Graphics. HP has already announced no less than 11 new ProBook and Pavilion laptops with the new chips.

 

The initial range consists of seven new processors for laptop computers–three A8, two A6 and two A4. The A8 and A6series contains four cores, 4MB of L2 Cache and 400 or 320 stream processors/shaders in a DX11-class integrated GPU. This is a very impressive number that should translate to gaming graphics on par with a current mid-range dedicated GPU. As an example, 400 stream processors is the same amount as in the HD 5650M found in the HP Envy 14. Although you will have to deduct quite a bit of performance due to the shared memory architecture, these integrated GPUs should be able to deliver decent frame rates even in newer games–something that current IGPs are incapable of.

All newcomers are equipped with graphics from the Radeon HD 6000 series with support for everything from DirectX 11 to OpenCL, Blu-ray and UVD3 3D video acceleration. The budget-oriented A4 series consist of dual-core models with half the cache and 240 shaders in the GPU. It will also be possible to let the integrated graphics work with a dedicated video card in “Dual Graphics” mode for higher performance.

There are no major updates on the CPU front; most of the focus is on the new integrated graphics part. In other words, the Phenom II-based processor part will unfortunately not be powerful enough to compete with Intel. However, the associated platform offers support for DDR3 memory running at up to 1600 MHz, USB 3.0, SATA III 6.0 Gbps and a host of video outputs, including HDMI and Display Port. Moreover, AMD adopts something similar to Intel’s Turbo Boost feature but calls it Turbo Core 2.0. Just like its competitor, this feature automatically overclocks the CPU on demand. The top model AMD A8-3530MX, for example, goes from 1.9GHz to 2.6 GHz or about 30 percent above the stock clock speed as needed.

All in all, this great news for laptop gaming–especially in the budget segment. AMD has been struggling against Intel for years, and even the company’s top CPUs have barely been unable to compete with Intel’s entry-level Core series. Now AMD can finally offer something that Intel can’t, namely good integrated graphics.

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