When it comes to CPUs, archrivals AMD and Intel compete in a number of fronts. Intel has had the better part of the rivalry lately, with its Core2 chips generally offering better performance than AMD's Athlon and Phenom chips, and with a dominant share of dual-processor servers as well.
AMD remains competitive in mainstream markets, in part through better pricing and the relative weakness of Intel's integrated graphics; and in some kinds of high-performance computing, where HyperTransport and the integrated memory controller of its Opteron chips offer real advantages in multiprocessor servers.
But for the next few months, the big battleground is likely to be in notebook computer platforms, where both companies have new offerings, many of which are being rolled out at this week's Computex show in Taiwan.
AMD today formally introduced its new notebook platform, which has been referred to under the code-name of Puma, though officially it's just the next generation notebook platform. The CPU is the Turion X2 Ultra chip (formerly code-named "Griffin"), which basically is two K8 cores (the same cores used in the Athlon processors) with some interesting new features: independent dynamic cores let the chip set different power levels for each core and the integrated "north bridge" chip, power optimized HyperTransport 3; a a mobile-optimized memory controller designed for DDR-800 memory.
The heart of the platform is the new 7-series chipset with support for the ATI Mobility Radeon 3000 family of graphics and Wi-Fi support from a third-party chipset (such as Atheros, Broadcom, or Marvell).
The graphics come in several flavors. Most distinctive is the HD 3000 integrated graphics solution, which includes support for Avivo HD (for better hardware-assistend HD decode). AMD believes this will far outperform Intel's integrated graphics. In addition, AMD is offering three discrete graphics solutions; the HD 3400 family for mainstream systems; 3600 for performance; and 3800 for gaming. The big differences between these chips desls with the memory interface (64-bit for the 3400; 128-bit for the 3600; and 256-bit for the 3800); and the number of stream processors (40, 120, and 320 each).
All of the discrete solutions will support "hybrid graphics" which support both using the integrate chip and the discrete chip together; as well as "Power Xpress" which turns one of the chips off when it isn't needed to save battery power. All the chips support Direct X 10. In addition, AMD will be offering support for what it calls "ATI XGP" - essentially an external box with even more graphics that connects via special cable to the PCI Express bus. This will allow multi-monitor support, TV tuners, etc. It's a very cool idea.
AMD says this solution will offer three times the 3D performance, 5 times the HD quality, and 40% faster wireless than Intel's solution. I'm a bit skeptical on some of these numbers, but the proof will be in the final notebooks. I'll be waiting to see test results on the real products.