AMD A-Series Fusion chip takes aim at mainstream market

A 10.5 hour battery life, brilliant HD graphics capability, gestural interfaces, and hardware system prices well below $1,000 are some features of a series of Fusion chips that Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Inc. is aiming squarely at the mainstream market.

The specs of the company’s A-Series of APUs (accelerated processing unit), also indicate that AMD is gunning for rival Intel’s Core i3 to Core i7 market.

The release of the A-series closely rounds out AMD`s initial APU offerings which were initially targeted at the netbook and tablet markets. Fusion and Sandy Bridge processors combine a central processing unit and a graphics processing unit in a single die. The A-series trails Intel Corp.’s APU offering but also comes some four months after Intel has admitted spotting some design flaws in its Sandy Bridge processors that could affect its Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core microprocessors.

“Our main target is the sweet spot…mainstream users. This segment has evolved to become consumers of considerable computing power,” said Tony Fernandez-Stoll, vice-president of marketing for the Americas at AMD.

The processor is scheduled to appear throughout the second quarter of 2011 in more than 150 notebooks and desktops machines from leading computer manufacturers, Fernandez-Stoll said in a product briefing during the 2011 Montreal Grand Prix. The Ferrari Formula 1 team uses AMD processor-based computer systems to provide technicians and drivers with real-time performance diagnostics and simulation graphics.

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Codenamed “Llano”, the A-Series combines up to four x86 CPU cores and up to 400 Radeon cores along with dedicated HD video processing on a single chip.

The system allows multi-monitor support, 3D video, and real-time image stabilization and for gestural interfaces. Gestural interfaces employ embedded optical sensors to track the movement of a user’s fingers in order to execute a command.

Shane Rau, program director for computing, networking and storage semiconductors at analyst firm IDC Corp., said these may be features associated with consumer demands, but more and more SMB users are employing applications such as video, image processing, facial and gestural recognition and multitasking capabilities for their computing needs.

“Often SMB operators also purchase equipment like consumers do – in small units at a time,” said the IDC infrastructure and hardware expert.

“The benefits SMB buyers can get from the A series are mainly universal such as longer battery life, improved performance and the option to upgrade to discrete-level graphics with DirectX 11,” said Rau.

Competitive positioning

The previous Fusion offerings from AMD now include:

  • G Series – With peak power of 5.5 and 6.4 watts suited for embedding in devices such as digital signs and set-top boxes.
  • C and Z Series – Ideal for ultra mobile notebooks and tablet devices.
  • E Series – Designed for ultra-mobile and thin and light notebooks as well as small form factor desktops.
  • A Series – For mainstream notebooks, all-in-one computers, desktops and embedded applications.

The A series chips come in three different flavours:

  • A4 – for systems with an estimated price range of $499 and positioned against Intel’s Core i3.
  • A6 – For systems estimated at $599 and up and positioned against Core i3 and Core i5.
  • A8 – For systems priced around $699 and up and positioned against Core i5 and Core i7.

“AMD targeted the low end market with its Series C, Z and E. Now they are aiming for mid-market,” said Rau, “But this is very aggressive pricing.”

Although Intel’s Sandy Bridge chips and AMD Fusion chips share the same concept, Rau is still waiting to see of the two makers’ implementations will differ.

He said Intel got an initial leg up over AMD by being able to release its APU offerings at a much earlier date. He said Intel’s earlier trouble with Sandy Bridge design flaws has been remedied “and it doesn’t appear to have affected sales.”

AMD was hampered from releasing its A-Series early because its semi-conductor supplier Global Foundries had problems producing enough wafers for the product. “AMD is coming into the market about six months late. They have their work cut out for them,” said Rau.

“It’s important for AMD to push issues such as improve battery life, performance and the ability to upgrade in order to win the market,” he said.

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter, read his blogs on Blogs and join the Facebook Page.

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