You may not care — or even know — what make of processor you’ve got inside your computer. The chances are reasonably high it’s an Intel part; depending on whose figures you read, somewhere around eighty percent of all processors sold are Intel processors. Still, that leaves twenty percent of the market running something else, and in most cases, that’s a processor from AMD, or Advanced Micro Devices, if you wish to be formal.
AMD’s latest processor foray couldn’t be more different to the recently announced (and swiftly withdrawn) Intel “Sandy Bridge” processors. Sandy Bridge is (first and foremost) pitching at the high-end, high-specification market with some very nice processors if you’ve got the money. At the time of writing, however, Intel was scrambling to correct a problem with the accompanying chipset to Sandy Bridge, as the chipset (codenamed “Cougar Bridge”) had potential flaws in how it talked to SATA devices (hard disk drives and optical drives such as DVD or Blu-Ray) that could cause problems over time. If you bought one of the first Sandy Bridge PCs or laptops, you may well have issues, but at this stage it’s unclear if every system will have problems. For the moment, though, Sandy Bridge is off the market.
In any case, AMD’s solution to go head to head with high performance Sandy Bridge, is, simply put, not to do so at all. Instead, AMD’s latest “Fusion” processors come with a sparkly new marketing term and an initial pitch to the entry-level, long battery life, thin and light market. AMD refers to the Fusion processors not as CPUs (Central Processing Units) but as APUs (Acccelerated Processing Units), because they combine a CPU and reasonably high end graphics processor on the same chip. Intel does do that type of arrangement, but to date the integrated graphics that Intel’s offered hasn’t been particularly exciting stuff. AMD’s Fusion APUs, put up against the Atom processors that Intel supplies for many Netbooks make for interesting comparison, with AMD claiming eleven times the graphics performance, although things get murkier if you’re comparing some Core i3/i5 notebook systems to Fusion.
There will be a high-end version of Fusion, codenamed “Llano” available later in the year, but for now, the focus is on slim systems, netbook competitors and entry level priced systems. AMD has taken Intel on over the years in the value for money space, and it’s a fight that ultimately benefits us, the consumers, even if you don’t buy a Fusion PC. Competition breeds competitive pricing, and who doesn’t want faster and cheaper computing?