CES - AMD lights Puma platform up with hybrid graphics

AMD provides further details of its upcoming Puma platform, including a new processor name and new hybrid graphics technology.

Advanced Micro Devices on Monday provided further details about its next-generation Puma platform for notebook PCs, which is designed to maximize battery life while meeting the heavy graphics performance demanded by the Windows Vista OS.

The Puma platform will come with processors named Turion Ultra, originally codenamed Griffin, and include Hybrid Graphics Technology, which boosts the platform's graphics performance by running both the integrated graphics processor and discrete graphics together.

Discrete graphics cards, which are usually plugged into a slot on the motherboard, usually provide more video memory and graphics processing power than integrated graphics processors, which are included on a system's motherboard.

The platform will include the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3400 discrete graphics card, which is specially designed to work with an integrated graphics card to either crunch extreme graphics or to get better system performance-per-watt, mobile division brand manager at AMD, Scott Shutter, said.

AMD will also launch ATI PowerXpress for the Puma platform, which allows users to switch between integrated and discrete graphics dynamically without rebooting their notebook. This allows the discrete graphics card to be used for graphics intensive applications when under AC power, and the integrated graphics to be used for extended battery life when on the go, division marketing manager with AMD's mobile processor group, Bahr Mahony, said.

The platform will fully support DirectX 10.1, Microsoft's 3D graphics platform.

The hybrid graphics capabilities will ship with notebooks based on the Puma platform in the middle of this year, Shutter said. Though intended to be a centerpiece of the Puma platform, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3400 graphics card is already separately shipping with Asus systems, according to AMD. Pricing information was not available.

A future Puma platform capability will include support for ATI Hybrid Graphics Technology with ATI PowerXpress, allowing users to switch between an integrated graphics card and a discrete graphics card based on a system's multimedia requirement. AMD will launch this technology toward the end of the year.

The combination of the CPU and graphics processing unit capabilities in the Puma platform is one more step towards achieving Fusion, a platform that merges a CPU and graphics processing unit on a single piece of silicon, Shutter said. The Fusion platform is aimed for release in 2009. The company last year launched the 'Spider' platform, which combines the company's Phenom quad-core process, graphics cards and chipsets in one package.

Notebooks based on the Puma platform will be able to handle high-definition HD DVD and Blu-ray movie playback through its Avivo HD technology, which offloads the processing of high-definition data decoding from the CPU to the graphics processing unit, Shutter said. The low CPU utilization allows a notebook to perform better.

The CPU has 2MB of on-board cache, an upgrade from earlier Turion Rev G processors, which had 1MB of cache, Shutter said. The system also throttles down bandwidth between cores based on system usage and performance to increase a notebook's battery life.

Boot times and program launch times in Puma notebooks will improve with on-board flash technology called HyperFlash, Shutter said. The flash technology will store important bits of information needed to boot a system quicker, reducing lag time usually associated with reading data from hard drives. It will be available on the board, or as a separate modules for motherboards.

Shutter didn't reveal further details about Turion Ultra's initial clock speeds.

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