AMD has dished out details of a brand new purpose-built mobile CPU and motherboard chipset. Pencilled in for a mid 2008 launch, the new CPU will be AMD's first PC processor designed exclusively for use in notebook systems. The supporting chipset will also be AMD's first to include integrated DirectX 10 graphics.
Currently known under the Griffin codename, the new chip is a dual-core processor based on AMD's latest 65nm production process. AMD says extending battery life is the main focus for the new design.
Power saving features include an optimised on-chip Northbridge along with finely grained control over current and operating frequencies for various parts of the processor die. The Northbridge itself, memory controller and both execution cores all have independent power and clock speed planes.
Power saving features
The chip also sports further detail power saving enhancements including fully scalable HyperTransport links. The cores themselves boast a digital frequency synthesiser. This allows both a lower clock speed limit, now just 1/8th of the headline clock speed, and more rapid and efficient frequency modulation.
According to AMD all this power saving kit nets a 20 per cent improvement in battery life at the system level.
Overall, Griffin smells an awful lot like Intel's previous strategy of separate CPU designs for mobile and desktop computers with Intel's Pentium M and Pentium 4 processors, respectively. More recently, of course, Intel has returned to a one-size-fits-all approach with Core 2 .
As for performance, don't get too excited. AMD says Griffin's execution cores are largely carried over from AMD's current Athlon processor design. And not the new Barcelona architecture due later this year in desktop and server configurations.
The Core 2 conundrum
Intel's current Core 2 chips already have a significant performance advantage. Griffin will therefore have a tough job when it appears in 2008. By then Intel is expected to be shipping its second generation 45nm mobile processor.
Nevertheless, AMD has boosted Griffin's cache memory count to 1MB per core and added HyperTransport 3 support, both of which should add a little grunt. By AMD's own admission, clock speed and overall performance improvements will be incremental compared with the existing AMD Turion dual-core chip.
If Griffin looks a little underwhelming, however, the supporting RS780 mobile chipset looks much more promising. It's the first fruit of the collaboration with new subsidiary ATI. And it's designed to give AMD a direct competitor for Intel's giddily successful Centrino mobile platform.
Key features include integrated DirectX 10 graphics and hardware decode acceleration for both HD DVD and Blu-ray disks. There are also built in DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs. Another highlight is AMD's new HyperFlash. A native NAND flash memory connection to the southbridge, HyperFlash is clearly designed to take on Intel's Turbo Memory feature in the latest Intel Centrino mobile platform.