Is AMD's Fusion processor an Intel killer?

Moreover, there's nothing Llano has or does that will upset the status quo on the desktop. As a CPU it will be unremarkable. Meanwhile, any desktop graphics card worth its salt with give it thumping for sheer 3D rendering grunt.

Laptops and GPGPU

Shift the emphasis to mobile computing, however, and suddenly Llano looks a lot more clever. What you have is a highly integrated solution based on cutting edge 32nm chip tech with thoroughly adequate quad-core performance and the added bonus of some serious vector throughput. And all from a power efficient chip suitable for very thin and very light portables.

What we're also hinting at here is the much-hyped but little realised notion of running general purpose software on a graphics chip. Known as GPGPU for short, it's often claimed to deliver a massive leap in performance for applications that major on floating point calculations and lend themselves to the massively parallel nature of graphics chips.

Thanks to the arrival of the compute shader in DX11 along with several other industry-wide efforts, GPGPU is expected to finally gain traction over the next 12 months or so. Just in time for the arrival of Llano. If that does happen, Intel will almost definitely have no answer.

What about Sandy Bridge?

For starters, Intel has a poor track record in graphics and has yet to prove it can build a really decent 3D core. What's more, die shots of Intel's upcoming Sandy Bridge processors, due next year and slated to take on Llano, reveal two things.

The good news is that Sandy Bridge is going monolithic: the graphics features will be on-die rather than merely in-package. Less impressive is the size of the graphics core. It's tiny compared to Llano's.

In short, Llano looks like a much more balanced architecture. In fact, it looks so good it's not hard to imagine a certain fruit-theme maker of computing devices sizing it up. Llano power for the next MacBook Air? It would make an awful lot of sense.