AMD reveals 2010 notebook platform plans

As notebook popularity continues to grow, AMD is readying two new mobile platforms for next year. For ultraportables, the "Nile" platform will bring a dual-core "Geneva" CPU manufactured with 45-nm process technology. This processor will be offered on a BGA package rather than as a socketed chip, which should make it easier to squeeze into smaller systems. Geneva will use DDR3 memory and be paired with a DirectX 10.1-class integrated graphics chipset based on the company's existing RS880M design. The platform will also support so-called switchable graphics, allowing notebook makers to include a discrete Radeon GPU that can be shut down to conserve power when it's not needed.

Mainstream thin-and-light notebooks and desktop replacement systems will be served by the "Danube" platform, which will be powered by quad-core "Champlain" processors that are also being built on a 45-nm node. Again, an amped up version of AMD's current RS880M integrated graphics chipset will handle core-logic duties. Switchable graphics is on the menu, as well, and AMD notes that both Danube and Nile will be compatible with its upcoming DirectX 11 mobile GPUs. The company has yet to reveal more about those graphics chips, but they'll presumably be available next year.

While AMD isn't providing much in the way of additional details on these upcoming mobile platforms, the company has said that new techniques are being used to lower the power consumption of Champlain and Geneva CPUs. In addition to "higher-level" approaches that will be disclosed later, AMD has worked to stretch silicon channels to reduce leakage. Additional power gates have been introduced to allow more portions of the CPU to shut down when unneeded, as well. AMD is also looking into ways to reduce the base power consumption of its notebook platforms, which, even without their CPU and chipset components, still draw about five watts.

AMD says it's committed to delivering notebook platforms that offer all-day computing, but those aspirations may not be realized until 2011, when the first Fusion-based mobile Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) debut. These chips will be built using 32-nm process technology, and they'll underpin "Sabine" and "Brazos" platforms that will replace Danube and Nile, respectively. Sabine will feature a quad-core "Llano" APU, while Brazos will use a dual-core "Ontario" design. Interestingly, Ontario isn't a cut-down version of Llano. A separate design team has been working to specifically tailor the Ontario APU for ultraportable notebooks that reach down into territory currently occupied by netbooks. AMD expects to wring substantial power savings from the reduction in interconnects inherent to Fusion-based APUs. The company also anticipates that battery capacities will rise by the time Fusion debuts, which should further extend notebook run times.

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