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Author: elan19 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 20315  
Subject: Re: AMD Date: 8/1/2011 10:19 AM
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Llano has now been out and in the wild a few weeks. As luck would have it, I've been shopping for a new Windows machine, and I tend to read about the latest on chips when doing that. So now I now how Llano stacks up:

Llano is a huge advance on the prior generation, most especially for mobile processors. However, it comes a few months after Intel's Sandy Bridge release. Unfortunately for AMD, Sandy Bridge will be better for most usage case scenarios, so AMD will be forced to compete on price. Here are the key points. I start with Intel's Sandy Bridge, because Llano will be defined in relation to it:

1) Sandy Bridge CPUs are incredibly fast. Most of the CPUs in the desktop lineup are overkill for mainstream users (with the usual exceptions: hard core gamers, video editing, etc.). The mobile lineup has a chip, the i5 2410m, that is going to be the new mainstream laptop chip as it basically is just as fast as the (plenty for most mainstream users) entry level i3 2100 desktop chip.

2) For the first time ever, Intel has an integrated graphics chip that will cover most mainstream use cases, and that includes HTPC things like HD video, converting video formats (encoding), etc. There are 2 versions, and the HD3000 is the really good one, while HD2000 is mediocre. This means that consumers no longer need buy a discrete graphics card (again with the usual exceptions)

3) Sandy Bridge is incredibly heat/power efficient which implies less noise as well (less fan cooling). It is not as power efficient as the Atom chips that power netbooks, but it is not that far off when idle or under light loads - yet is close to an order of magnitude faster at everything. Netbooks struggle with anything beyond word processing and surfing the net.

4) The one strange thing about the Intel lineup is that HD3000 graphics is included with every mobile chip, but not included with most desktop chips (which get the HD2000). This actually makes the desktop chips LESS powerful than the mobile chip (for handling graphics intensive things including older games) for the typical mainstream user, unless a discrete graphics card is purchased.

5) After several years of gently pushing people to get notebooks instead of desktops with various processor choices and price points - it seems like Intel is now pushing harder - in my shopping I could find no reason for a normal user that has a monitor/keyboard/mouse lying around to get a desktop - just get the laptop and hook in your old peripherals. Desktops can be slightly cheaper but will be noisier and consume more space and power especially if a discrete graphics card is included. Apple figured this out years ago with the the tiny little desktop Mac Mini with laptop internals and indeed their newest entry level Mac Mini has this same mobile i5 2410m part - quiet, fast, power efficient, inexpensive.

6) Against this backdrop: The most powerful CPUs in the Llano lineup barely keep up with those on the lowest part (the i3s) of the Sandybridge i3/i5/i7 family.

7) Llano embeds more powerful graphics, no question. But who needs them? The HD3000 is already powerful enough for a mainstream user. It is possible to envision a user who has mostly older games and less processor intensive newer games - and that person will benefit from Llano over Intel. That's an awful small market. Someone who wants to play more demanding games with all the bells and whistles will get a discrete graphics card whether they use Llano or Sandy Bridge.

Conclusion? In this round of leapfrog, Intel won. AMD will have to compete on price. And those prices will be low, as Intel isn't charging all that much for the low to the middle part of the line.

For a laptop:

i5 2410m systems start at around $600 (that's what I just got - a Lenovo thinkpad Edge e520)

A somewhat less capable but still impressive laptop:

i3 2120m systems start at around $450



Source materials for coming to these conclusions:

http://www.anandtech.com/tag/cpus

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/Components,1/CPU,1/

Including some of the forums on these sites.


One last aside: I've discussed netbooks on this site some. With Sandy Bridge laptops starting at around $450, and iPads starting at $500, it's not hard to see that traditional netbooks based on the sluggish Atom processors are on the way out. The price gap between a slow $300 netbook and a $450 laptop that is at least 5x as fast is narrow and getting narrower - so I don't see why there should exist "netbook category" anymore.
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