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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Griffin adds HyperTransport 3 technology

Much later in the year, it appears that AMD will roll out another new mobile processor under the code-name "Griffin." Griffin CPUs will also be built on a 65nm process and support DD2 800-MHz RAM. The key difference will be the presence of HyperTransport 3 technology, which will result in increased bus speeds and the ability of the processor to underclock or shut off individual cores if they're not being utilized. (This is known as a split-power plane.)

While AMD has refused to comment on Griffin, the presence of HyperTransport 3 and split-power planes has led experts and analysts to believe that Griffin will make its debut in the form of a quad-core mobile CPU.

Griffin's release will likely coincide with the debut of an all-new AMD mobile/wireless platform code-named "Puma" that supports quad-core architecture, increased power management and 802.11n compatibility.

Looking forward to "Fusion"

While AMD is not expected to release 45nm mobile processors until mid to late 2008, the company has been fairly candid about its work on an innovative new processor known by the code-name "Fusion."

At its core, the Fusion processor is a multicore CPU, but instead of utilizing two (or more) identical CPU cores, AMD will fuse together computer processing units and graphics processing units (undoubtedly supplied by the recent acquisition of ATI) into a single multi-core chip. This relatively new approach to chipmaking is commonly referred to as heterogeneous processing, a term we expect to hear more of as 2007 progresses. At its recent Analyst Day in December 2006, AMD announced a proprietary name of its own for this innovative and potentially exciting methodology: Accelerated Processing Units.

What will Fusion processors mean in real-world performance terms for laptop users? It's early to say for sure, but it will certainly allow for speedier exchanges of information between the CPU and the graphics hardware, which will be handy for gaming and for general Windows interface functionality. Theoretically, it could also allow Fusion-equipped laptops to offload non-graphics functions, such as floating point operations, onto this processor. Finally, an integrated CPU/GPU will allow for decreased power consumption and smaller laptops.

During its Analyst Day presentation, AMD made it clear that Accelerated Processing Units, which will likely not debut until early 2008, will be central to the company's road map for CPU development in 2007 and beyond. (You can watch the four-hour webcast at AMD's Investor Relations site.) To date, Intel has offered no comparable plan or road map for heterogeneous CPUs.

Could this bold long-term road map portend a reversal of market-share fortune similar to the one AMD created when it released its Athlon 64 desktop processors three or four years ago? Time will tell...and we'll be watching.

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George Jones is the editorial director of IDG Entertainment.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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