AMD Kicks Off CES, Formally Announces Fusion APUs

At CES today, AMD will both launch its first Fusion Application Processors (APUs) and discuss the new platform's design wins. According to the CPU manufacturers press release, desktop, notebook, and netbook systems should be available now, with tablets and embedded options launching before the end of Q1 2011.

"We believe that AMD Fusion processors are, quite simply, the greatest advancement in processing since the introduction of the x86 architecture more than forty years ago,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager, AMD Products Group. "In one major step, we enable users to experience HD everywhere as well as personal supercomputing capabilities in notebooks that can deliver all-day battery life. It’s a new category, a new approach, and opens up exciting new experiences for consumers.”

AMD's higher-end Zacate cores will now be branded as 'E-Series' parts while the lower-end, lower-power Ontario parts will heretofore be known as the 'C-Series.' Llano, when it arrives, will be an 'A-Series' APU. The E-Series is currently split between the E-350 (1.6GHz, dual-core, 18W TDP) and the E-240 (1.5GHz, single-core, 18W TDP). The Ontario-based C-Series consists of the C-50 (1GHz, dual-core, 9W TDP) and C-30 (1.2Hz, single-core, 9W TDP). At a guess, AMD's TDP ratings look the way they do in order to simplify the design process; OEMs that build towards the E-240 or C-30 won't need to change form factors if they want to offer a higher-end version of a popular system.

It's hard to underestimate the importance of these two parts. When AMD bought ATI in 2006, then-CEO Hector Ruiz sold the merger to stockholders based on claims that a fusion of CPU and GPU technology would best allow AMD to compete in the future. AMD's original plan was to introduce Fusion hardware by the second half of 2009; the subsequent delay has made it all the more important that the first Fusion products impress.

 As if that wasn't pressure enough, Zacate and Ontario are AMD's best chance to carve out a hefty chunk of the netbook market where Atom is, for all intents and purposes, the only player. While it's true that the netbook market has shrunk considerably in the past 12 months, AMD's mobile market share is small enough that even modest gains would noticably impact the company's mobile revenue. AMD's declaration that it'll have tablet and embedded-versions ready by the end of Q1 could also mean we'll see Fusion APUs in the hottest slice of the mobile market. Certainly the processor's performance is up to the task; our performance preview indicates Zacate compares very well against Intel's Atom.

Sunnyvale claims that these Fusion products will deliver up to ten hours of battery life thanks to advanced power-saving features. Even if that's a marketing department figure, even 6-7 hours under real-world conditions would be a considerable improvement over AMD's current Nile platform. We've no doubt that several Fusion systems will be on display at CES this year; we'll bring you more in-depth coverage once we're onsite.