AMD to start sampling Fusion chips next year

PC makers will get early looks at the chips, which are on track to ship in 2011

Next year, AMD will begin providing PC makers with samples of the much-hyped Fusion chips that incorporate graphics processing into the CPU.

Sampling is the precursor to the final release of the Fusion family of chips, which is on track for 2011, said Nigel Dessau, chief marketing officer at AMD, in an interview this week.

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The graphics functionality integrated into CPUs will deliver video and gaming capabilities equivalent to those found on PCs with separate graphics cards, he said. "The importance of the visual experience -- whether you're playing videos or watching games -- is only going to increase," Dessau said.

He did not say when PCs with Fusion chips will reach shelves.

The sampling should dampen speculation regarding official release of the chips, which has been delayed multiple times due to technical issues. It will also be a big step forward for AMD and the culmination of a vision the chip designer had after acquiring graphics company ATI in 2007 for $5.4 billion.

But AMD has since struggled in integrating ATI's operations and in attempts to put the CPU and GPU on a single chip. The company has taken billions of dollars in charges related to the acquisition, and late last year, delayed the release of Fusion chips from 2009 to 2011.

In the meanwhile, Intel took the lead over AMD, putting a graphics processor and CPU in one chip package as part of its upcoming laptop and desktop chips, which go into production later this year. The Intel chips will be manufactured using the 32-nanometer process.

According to AMD's road map, one Fusion chip code-named Llano is targeted at mainstream laptops and desktops and will include four cores and 4MB of cache. The other chip, Ontario, is targeted at ultraportable laptops will be dual-core with 1MB of cache.

AMD delayed the original Fusion chips to get better efficiencies of scale from the advanced 32-nm manufacturing process, the company said last year. The chips were to be produced using the 45-nanometer process, but AMD saw better power saving and performance benefits in the advanced 32-nm process.

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