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AMD's Brazos - ASUS E35 M1-M Pro Print E-mail
Written by Michael Schuette   
Feb 20, 2011 at 02:58 AM

Acording to AMD, the Fusion APU signifies the biggest shift in PC technology since x86 processors were first invented 40 years ago. The word Fusion has been thrown at us for more years now than I care to count, Fusion this and Fusion that and the Future is Fusion and every time the take home message was that it’ll be the next one that is going to be more Fusion. By the time things finally started to materialize, it was no longer the “Fusion Platform” but things had scaled down to become an APU, short for accelerated processing unit. Very briefly, to bring everybody on the same page, the Fusion APU consolidates the Northbridge with a dual-core CPU and adds the functionality of a discrete-level DirectX 11 GPU into a single die. The total power budget of all involved discrete components would be 13W+25W+8W* respectively, for the individual components as listed above, however, the combined monolithic design only draws as much as 18W total under load and further, reduces die size from a cumulative 242 square millimeters (66+75+117) to a mere 75 square millimeters.

The concept is quite similar to Intel’s Sandy Bridge, however, in contrast to SB, AMD’s introduction of the Fusion APU has targeted the entry-level or low performance market segment. Ironically, the poster child for the new Fusion platforms, code name “Llano” is late to the show because of difficulties in porting the new design to the 32 nm process at Global Foundries including building a GPU on a 32nm SOI process and other issues that we can only guess at. As a result, the A-series of APU is still at large, instead, we have the C-series commonly referred to by their internal codename “Ontario” and finally the E-series also known as Zacate that are hitting the market.

It is no surprise that the first target market is exactly the same segment where Intel is selling over 90% of all their processors, namely, the Atom family comprising the Silverthorne and Pineview models. Bear in mind, though, that the Atom family comprises no less than 39 different models differentiating themselves against each other on the basis of frequency, features, numbers of core, not to mention whether they are discrete or embedded. Which explains the (at first glance surprisingly) high number.

Ontario and Zacate are manufactured by TSMC using the 40 nm process, which, by itself has been problematic enough to cause some major headaches at AMD and essentially all other TSMC partners in the past. Those issues, though, appear to be a thing of the past, yields are good and life is great – again.

Entering a new market poses a number of logistical challenges, among which are the distinctions against one’s own existing product lines. It gets a bit more dicey if the new product has another attribute alongside the low power tag, which is low performance, after all, everybody has been spoiled by the latest generations of CPU, unless we are talking strictly about the tablet or netbook sector which is somewhere between the smartphone and the laptop with a mixture of the good the bad and the ugly from both genres. Of course, this is the sector that AMD has not had its foot in, but at the same time, the smart move has to be to look at the insufficiencies of the existing solutions and try to overcome exactly those while preserving the attractive features without going overboard.

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Last Updated ( Jul 06, 2011 at 01:46 PM )
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