Friday, June 20, 2008

Intel Atom Competitor from AMD: Rumors

The launch of Intel Atom processors is expected to stimulate the MID/netbook market growth dramatically. It would be surprising if Intel rivals would pass on the opportunity to compete with them in this new market. There appeared a slide today revealing an upcoming AMD processor that is claimed to be the No.1 competitor to Intel Atom and VIA Nano.

This single-core 64-bit processor features 128KB (64KB + 64KB) L1 cache, 256KB L2 cache, features an integrated memory controller supporting one DDR2-400 SDRAM DIMM or SO-DIMM module. The CPU features a HyperTransport bus working at 800MHz frequency. The CPU runs at 1GHz clock speed and boasts 8W TDP. The CPU is designed in BGA packaging with 812 pins that measures 27 x 27mm.

In fact it is a simpler modification of the good old Athlon 64 adapted for the mobile and integrated solutions segment. Overall, this scheme reminds us of the AMD Geode NX processor family originating from the Athlon cores. However, if Geode NX used to be based on K7 micro-architecture, now the new processors have every chance to get a 64-bit K8 core.

It is evident that while AMD may be having problems tackling Intel in the high-end desktop and notebook markets, the company is looking to go toe-to-toe with Intel in the emerging Mobile Internet Device (MID) and netbooks/nettop market. AMD solution differs from Intel Atom processors by 64-bit extensions support and an integrated memory controller.
Nevertheless, we doubt that the CPU on the slide is that competitive, because the TDP of 8W is too high. Atom’s TDP is only 2.5W and even if we add the 4W TDP of Intel i945GSE chipset, which, by the way, has an integrated graphics core absent in the upcoming AMD processor, the total number will still be only 6.5W.

I would like to remind you that so far AMD hasn’t been very successful in the budget markets. Their PIC (Personal Internet Communicator) initiative based on the “integrated” AMD Geode GX processor resulted in significant financial losses for the company. The OLPC XO student laptop project (AMD Geode LX processor) was late to launch and right from the start yielded to ASUS Eee PC. Will the new solution be a success? It all depends on its performance and price.

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