AMD hopes to take down Intel's Ultrabooks on price

Thin-and-light laptops based on the company's upcoming Trinity chips could start at $500

Advanced Micro Devices demonstrated its upcoming mobile chips for thin-and-light laptops, which the company said will lead to cheaper but equally speedy alternatives to Intel's expensive Ultrabooks. "Ultrabooks" is Intel's trademarked term for a thin, lightweight, fast-boot laptop similar to Apple's MacBook Air.

AMD said its chips, code-named Trinity, draw around 17 watts of power, roughly the same as upcoming Ultrabook chips based on Intel's Ivy Bridge microarchitecture. Laptops based on Trinity are being shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and will be released later this year.

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The starting price for Trinity laptops may be around $500 or even lower depending on the configuration, AMD executives said at the show. That compares favorably to Intel's Ultrabooks, which are currently priced starting at $800, though Intel hopes to bring that down to $699 by the year end.

"We believe that we can actually support (thin-and-light laptops) with equal or better performance in the same class of machine at a lower price point," said Raymond Drumbeck, marketing manager for AMD.

AMD has coined the term "ultrathin" to describe a class of lightweight laptops based on its chips. It can't call them Ultrabooks, which is a term trademarked by Intel, Drumbeck said.

The Trinity chips for ultrathin laptops will come in dual-core and quad-core options, Drumbeck said. The chips will deliver the same performance but consume half the power of AMD's A-series chips, code-named Llano, which are currently used in standard laptops. Trinity will consume the same amount of power but outperform the current AMD E-series and C-series chips used in ultrathin laptops, though the chipmaker did not share detailed performance data.

AMD will also release a version of Trinity for standard-sized laptops. The chips will be 50 percent faster on graphics and 25 percent faster on CPU performance, Drumbeck said.

The Trinity chip combines an x86 CPU and graphics processor, and will be made using the 32-nanometer process. The CPU cores are based on a new architecture called Piledriver, and the integrated graphics processor will support Microsoft's DirectX 11 graphics technology. The company last year released new chips for high-end desktops based on its brand-new Bulldozer architecture.

Laptops with AMD chips tend to be priced lower, and the price advantage is one reason the chipmaker has been gaining market share over Intel. During the third quarter last year, Intel had an 80.3 percent market share, a drop from its 80.6 percent share during the third quarter in 2010, while AMD's market share was 18.8 percent, growing from 18.3 percent.

AMD did not comment on the actual release of the chips, but further information will be released in the next few weeks. The chipmaker also plans new tablet and desktop chips for this year, and more information on its chip strategy will be shared at the company's analyst meeting on Feb. 2.

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