Smaller, faster, cooler, more efficient: The 2007 mobile CPU road map

AMD is pitting an innovative new CPU design against Intel's new Centrino platform and 45nm fabrication process. The mobile chip wars are hotter than ever.

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Can AMD innovations close the gap?

AMD's late-summer acquisition of graphics chip maker ATI raised lots of eyebrows in 2006. Analysts, journalists and industry experts alike were intrigued by the prospects of the union. Because Windows Vista utilizes 3-D graphics processing units (GPU) to render its interface, this union could yield high dividends for AMD-ATI in the mobile market, which relies almost exclusively on integrated graphics processors.

Based on early rumors, it appears that the merger will result in some innovative mobile processors under the code name "Fusion" either in late 2007 or early 2008. More details on these mobile CPUs can be found below.

In the meantime, AMD will make a strong surge toward improving its mobile platform and processor line via some interesting-sounding innovations.

65nm Hawk debuts in early 2007

Last year, Intel took a decisive technological lead over AMD by manufacturing many of its mobile CPUs with a new 65nm fabrication process while AMD was still churning out less efficient 90nm chips. Thus, one of AMD's first priorities for the coming year will be to refresh its mobile CPU lineup with 65nm parts. At some point in late Q1 or early Q2, AMD will release a new line of 65nm mobile processors under the Turion 64 X2 and Mobile Sempron lines. These CPUs will form the foundation for all future 65nm mobile processors.

Currently code-named "Hawk," these CPUs will sport several new features, including increased thermal efficiency -- AMD is claiming an idle state that consumes 33% of the power that Intel's Core 2 Duos do in idle -- and support for DDR2 800-MHz memory. No details regarding specific model numbers were available at press time.

Not surprisingly, the release of Hawk processors will coincide with the release of a set of mobile chip sets that will offer a batch of new features:

  • Support for 800-MHz DDR2 memory
  • HDMI display interface support
  • Compatibility with flash hard drives (also known as NAND drives)
  • Support for hybrid graphics chips

One of the most intriguing elements of this platform upgrade is the notion of hybrid graphics chips. A hybrid graphics processor will allow for the presence of two different graphics processing units: one fast, powerful discrete GPU (meaning not integrated into the motherboard) and a separate, slower-performing integrated GPU. In theory, the chip set will be able to increase battery life by disabling the discrete graphics processor when a laptop is running on battery power.

It's worth noting that, in contrast to Intel's firm emphasis on specific parts and specifications for the highly recognizable Centrino platform, AMD's mobile platform is a recommendation, not a requirement. Furthermore, while AMD does not build wireless chip sets, the company is claiming that the Hawk platform will be compatible with 802.11n Wi-Fi devices.

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