AMD Fusion coming to netbooks

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AMD Fusion coming to netbooks

AMD has confirmed plans to ship its first Fusion processor before the end of 2010, but this will now be the Ontario low-end chip for ultra-thin portables and desktops, rather than the Llano high-performance chip, owing to issues with the 32nm process on which the latter is being built.

Fusion, which was first demonstrated publicly at the Computex show in June, combines general-purpose x86 processor cores with highly parallel graphics processor (GPU) technology to produce what AMD calls an accelerated processing unit (APU).

AMD had expected that its first APU would be Llano, a chip with four x86 cores plus a GPU, but this is now behind schedule owing to the 32nm process technology it uses, the company disclosed.

"We're not quite where we want to be on the yield curve," said John Taylor, AMD's director of Fusion marketing, who explained that the chip will now ship in the first half of 2011 instead.

This means that Ontario, which is actually ahead of schedule and set to ship in Q4 2010, will be the first Fusion APU to reach customers. The first systems are expected to come to market early in 2011, AMD said.

Ontario consists of two CPU cores plus a GPU compatible with the latest graphics APIs, including Microsoft's DirectX 11. It will provide equivalent graphics performance to gaming systems built around discrete GPU adapters, but with power consumption low enough for an ultraportable laptop, according to AMD.

"With Ontario, we can be much more aggressive in going after something like the netbook market, where AMD is not really in the market at the moment," said Taylor.

However, Fusion is more than about just integrating graphics into the processor, he added. AMD is working hard to unlock the parallel processing potential of the GPU so that developers can "address the workload of tomorrow" without having to move away from the huge installed base of x86 systems.

"You will see much more from AMD soon on how to engage mainstream developers with what we call 'lighthouse' applications," he said.

As an example, Taylor cited Microsoft's upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser, which will be able to offload graphics rendering to the GPU and also use it to accelerate the handling of video content.

"What AMD is doing is for the benefit of mainstream users. It will deliver better user interfaces and a snappier web experience. With Fusion, even high-end applications will be able to run on ultra-thin laptops," he said.

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