Wednesday, May 7, 2008

AMD Puma is nearly ready

Underdog chipmaker AMD says it is seeing unprecedented uptake by PC makers for its forthcoming “Puma” notebook platform. Upwards of 100 notebooks are being designed with Puma chipsets, said John Taylor, of AMD's Graphics Division, speaking at a technology update event in Singapore.

According to Taylor, notebook manufacturers are recognizing Puma’s key advantages over competing notebook platforms (read: Intel Centrino), particularly in the area of graphics.

AMD has devised a system called “hybrid graphics” where an integrated GPU does the low-powered 2D and 3D work (for example, Vista’s GPU-accelerated windowing system) while a discrete GPU chip can be fired up instantly to take on the heavy lifting 3D tasks when a demanding application like a game or Google Earth is loaded.

For example, a Puma-based notebook might come with AMD’s RS780M integrated GPU for basic graphics work (which in itself provides up to four times the performance of current generation Radeon X1200), as well as an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3000 with full DirectX 10.1 support. In notebooks, this hybrid graphics capability will be called AMD PowerXPress.

PowerXPress means you'll be able to have a low-power consumption integrated GPU doing your light graphics work, but a full-blooded discrete GPU can kick in with full force if you start doing anything that needs 3D graphics heavy lifting. The rest of the time it sits quietly, consuming next to no power.

On the CPU front, Puma-based notebooks will be based on the AMD Turion X2 Ultra mobile processor which uses Hypertransport 3 bus for extremely fast (20.8GB/s) data transfer between CPU and chipset, power management that can turn whole segments of the chip off on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis to save power.

Finally, AMD says its “WiFi certified” program means notebook makers will have a lot more flexibility in building notebooks with parts that are certified as compatible with the WiFi standard by the vendor-neutral WiFi forum, rather than Intel’s competing Centrino certification. Puma notebooks will offer 802.11a/b/g/n networking from vendors such as Broadcom, Atheros, Marvel and Ralink.

We can expect to see the first Puma-based notebooks launched at Computex Taiwan in June.

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