It has been a long time since AMD were King of the Hill, not that the general public knew when they were, anyway. Very few people know that AMD were the first company to break the 1Ghz speed barrier with their Athlon Thunderbird processors. Even more remarkable is the fact that the new Speed Kings were selling for a fraction of the cost of their Intel counterparts.
When Intel surpassed AMD in terms of pure processing speed, AMD concentrated on architectural improvements, resulting in a quicker system even when compared against the higher clocked Intel processors. AMD knew pure speed was not the answer and concentrated on getting more instructions processed per clock cycle which gave them an advantage. The early Pentium 4 series were no match for AMD in terms of performance, and Intel were dogged by overheating processors with the release of their dual core Pentium D series, which surely contributed to their dismal performance when comparing an equivalently priced AMD processor alongside it. AMD held the crown for almost four years, and Intel was hard at work in the mean time.
AMD lost its crown in 2004 with the release of Intel’s Core 2 Duo processors, and has been playing catch up ever since. In any other business this might have signalled the end, but the business world looks at profit margins - AMD continued to offer solid processors for the server environment and a plethora of budget CPU’s for the desktop and mobile markets, ensuring their survival. AMD made its intentions clear when it purchased graphics cards manufacturer, ATI, in 2006. ATI, and nVidia have been tossing the Graphics Card King crown around for more than a decade. AMD was serious about staying in business, just as nVidia was when they bought Voodoo FX in 1998. At that point, nothing could touch Voodoo FX in the 3D graphics card display world.
The new AMD A-series of APU’s is an exciting development. What is an APU you might ask? According to Wiki an APU is “any processing system that includes additional processing capability designed to accelerate one or more types of computations outside of a CPU”.
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AMD have been working on their Fusion (fusion of CPU and GPU) APU's since they acquired ATI in 2006, and it is only now that the technological advances are starting to bear fruition with the release of their A series Llano processors. Just as Intel put their heads down and sought a solution to their woes, so has AMD. While Llano might not be an Intel killer in the desktop market, it is certainly looking like it might shake things up in the mobile computing sphere.
AMD have concentrated on areas that people are most likely to see benefit from, without paying the earth. Real-time image stabilization springs to mind – imagine viewing your home made videos without the shakes and jitters. AMD’s A-series APU’s feature real-time image processing to stabilize your footage and make it look as if though it was shot by a professional, or close – no additional software required, only your A-series APU coupled with a discrete GPU.
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Let us not be mistaken – for the AMD APU to work with what we just spoke about, you will still need a dedicated GPU in your laptop/desktop. The beauty, especially for the mobile environment is that, when you are not running graphics intensive applications, all the work is done by your APU thereby saving your battery life.
Dell was the first on the bandwagon to start shipping AMD A series systems, which speaks volumes of the faith one of the world’s largest computer distributors. At Intersect IT, we value competition – it encourages innovation. When you have a one horse town, demand outstrips supply and prices rocket. Let us hope that AMD can extend its innovation to the desktop and give Intel a run for its money.