AMD's new laptop chips inspired by mobile devices, gaming consoles

AMD will bring to laptops features like gesture recognition and video mirroring through its A-series processors

As demand for PC processors plummets, Advanced Micro Devices has borrowed technologies from mobile devices and gaming consoles as a way to perk up sales for its latest A-series laptop processors that were introduced on Tuesday.

AMD's latest A-series processors code-named Richland replace existing laptop chips code-named Trinity, which were introduced around the middle of last year. The Richland x86 processors deliver between 20 percent and 40 percent more performance than Trinity chips, AMD has said.

The chips are aimed at laptops and other devices in which screens can be detached for use as tablets. The chips will compete with Intel's Core existing processors based on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture and its future chips based on the Haswell microarchitecture, which will be introduced for laptops and tablets this year.

The A-series chips will bring to laptops features such as gesture recognition, in which users can wave their hands to control the PC. AMD is using PC webcams to enable that feature.

Gesture-recognition technology has been available in gaming consoles starting with Nintendo's Wii for years. AMD's chips are used in Nintendo's latest gaming console, Wii U and will also power Sony's PlayStation 4, which will ship later this year.

Richland will also enable mirroring of videos on laptops and desktops to television sets or other laptops, similar to a technology available on devices like the iPad and iPhone. However, the other device needs a DLNA receiver, which allows sharing of content over a Wi-Fi network. Many of the latest smartphones are equipped with technology such as Miracast, which wirelessly streams content from tablets and smartphones to TV sets.

Users can also expect features such as facial login and controls to improve video quality with the new chips, AMD said in a statement. The features will become available through specialized software, which will be available for download later this year.

AMD said that its chips also include improved power-management features. The new chips can provide laptops with up to eight hours of Web browsing and up to six hours of video playback on a 55 watt-hour battery, AMD said. Battery life depends on usage -- for example, high-definition video could easily drain battery life a lot quicker compared to watching standard-definition video at a 480p resolution.

AMD is hoping that the Richland chips will be a factor in turning the company back to profitability. For more than a year-and-a-half, the company has been restructuring its product lineup, and Richland is part of the initial set of PC chips resulting from a revamped road map revealed last year under new management led by CEO Rory Read.

The slowdown in the PC market has hurt AMD and Intel. But AMD has also been losing ground to Intel and has lost market share in laptops and desktops.

The new Richland chips include quad-core A10 and A8 quad-core chips and dual-core A6 and A4 chips that operate at speeds between 3.1GHz and 3.5GHz. The quad-core chips have 4MB of cache, while the dual-core chips have 1MB cache. The chips use 35 watts of power. Pricing for the chips was not immediately available.

While 35 watts chips are considered power hungry for laptops, AMD will announce low-power A-series variants later this year.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

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