AMD points to APU momentum at CES 2013

AMD's APUs make the case that graphics is more important than CPUs in the new touch-centric world.

Kevin Lensing, director of AMD's Notebook Product Line, exuded a quiet confidence at a briefing at the 2013 CES show. After hiccups and delays AMD's APU strategy, which makes the integrated graphics core in the chip an equal partner with the CPU, is starting to gather momentum. Lensing pointed to key design wins for AMD's APUs, including shiny new laptops and all-in-ones from Vizio, a slick laptop from Asus that's indistinguishable from a similar Intel-based Ultrabook and HP's announcement of a budget, touch-based Windows 8 laptop as evidence.

APUs, or accelerated processing units, combine x86 compatible CPUs with the latest AMD Radeon GCN ("graphics core next") graphics cores. The top model A10 APU mash together a quad core CPU with 384 graphics cores, equivalent to discrete Radeon HD 8600M mobile GPU. The A10's graphics core offers an uncompromising feature set, including full DirectX 11.1 capability for smooth running operation in Windows 8.

One key design win is Vizio's line of sleekly designed PCs. Vizio is offering both laptops and desktop all-in-one PCs with AMD APUs plus AMD discrete graphics chips. Vizio's 24-inch All-in-One Touch PC is one example.

AMD also pointed to the recent release of Asus' U38 ultrathin laptop. Built into a chassis reminiscent of the Asux UX31A, the U38 was a cooperative design effort between AMD, Asus and Microsoft. The U38 uses an AMD A8-4555M APU and includes a 1920 by 1080 FullHD IPS display with 10-point touch capability.

Taking tablets seriously

Lensing also touted the company's upcoming Temash chip, the successor to the current generation Hondo (Z60) tablet APU. Temash will be built on a 28nm manufacturing process, and Lensing claimed Temash would be the fastest tablet processor available. Temash is a full SoC (system-on-chip) design. Since it uses Radeon graphics cores the GPU portion is DirectX 11.1 compatible, unlike the PowerVR GPU built into current-generation Intel Atom tablet processors.

AMD has already been shipping Temash to system builders, and expect tablet designs to appear by late Q2 2013. Kevin Lensing had a Temash reference design up and running, and the whole affair certainly felt responsive.

AMD is continuing its APU push into larger systems, including extremely thin and light laptops and mainstream laptops. The company is delivering a higher end, higher power version of its SoC code-named Kabini, which will see daylight in Windows 8 convertible laptops.

Bottom line: don't count AMD out

AMD has had its share of struggles in the past 24 months, but its long road to more robust APU designs is starting to reach fruition. Key design wins and a clear roadmap may help AMD stay in the game, even as Intel continues to struggle with graphics performance on its Atom line. Whether the new design wins will be enough to bring AMD back into the black is an open question. But AMD isn't throwing in the towel, and the net result may be some very slick products in users hands over the coming year.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out complete coverage of CES 2013 from PCWorld and TechHive.

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Loyd Case

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