A personal record of understanding, deciphering, speculating and predicting the development of modern microarchitecture designs.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Battle between Netbook and AMD Fusion

In the 1st quarter of 2011, Microsoft's Windows revenue dropped 4% from last year, mainly due to 40% decline in netbook sales. CFO Peter Klein says that tablets "played a part" in this decline. It's no wonder that companies no longer make a big fuzz about netbooks like they did in 2008 when Intel Atom was first out. After two short years of coming to life, netbook is already conceived as slow, insufficient and uncool by the consumers, ready to be replaced by the next technology.

AMD Fusion is what I feel an exciting and revolutionary technology which combines a capable multi-core CPU and a general-purpose GPU into a cost and power efficient package. We have an HP dm1z based on the AMD E-350, and I have to say it is an excellent notebook. It's capable, thin-and-light, runs cool and has long battery life (7+ hours in actual usage).

I find it ridiculous, though, that HP dm1z is marketed as a netbook. It's not a netbook. Neither HP nor AMD should have defined it as a netbook. My wife plays many cool games on it, edits photos on it, views HD movies on it, and basically performs every task an advanced PC user would on it, many tasks cannot be satisfactorily performed on a netbook (she holds an M.S. degree in computer science). It's no surprise, since netbook, by definition, is only for the "net," not games nor computing in general. An Atom based 10" laptop with in-order cores may be a netbook; an ARM based 8" laptop with 2GB RAM may be a netbook. But these AMD Fusion laptops have full-grown notebook computing capabilities (good), with size and power consumption similar to a netbook (better!).

It is no wonder that AMD does not refer to their Fusion APUs as for netbook. But sadly it doesn't matter. When Intel released their CULV, people tried to define the slow single-core Celeron based laptop with 2GB RAM as "notebook;" but after AMD launched their Fusion APUs, with two 64-bit out-of-order cores at 1.6GHz accessing 4GB RAM, most people seem to become dense about the many distinctions from netbook. Seriously, if the AMD Fusion "netbook" plays cool games with DX11, runs Office suite and photo editors smoothly, plays HD movies and even runs virtual machines at close-to-native speed, then it is a full notebook. If it's thin and light, then it's an ultramobile notebook. The reasonable conclusion: Fusion APU is not another netbook chip, but a perfect replacement for those ultramobile processors that would otherwise cost you $1000 each.

I feel kind of sad for AMD, for they seem to live in a world which is mostly agnostic about how good their technologies are. But perhaps that is how people like me can by these powerful little notebooks at a great price?


Anonymous said...

I can't agree more with you.

for example I bought arround 10 months ago an Acer 1810tz with a SU4100, for 399, 11.6" , 4GB Ram, 320 GB Hd, it's a penryn with 2 core with 2mb l2.

the salesmen told me no one bought them so they had to put them on sale because the sticker said Intel "Pentium", and people nowadays don't simpathize with that brand.
He also said told the other netbooks with atom at the time selling arround 350-375 were selling like hotcakes!!

(Intel making some bucks on the old penryn) and boosting the atom. Nowadays i think the penryn is still sold in budget notebooks.

it's all a question of proper marketing(to the public) and lobbying(to the manufacturers).
Intel is good doing it, and kept always selling more than amd even when amd launch top performance products at a better price than it's competitor.

Amd marketing team is bad, really bad.

Anonymous said...

i like amd products a lot since amd duron 900 as my first Amd, just their marketing team sucks. I'm still waiting for Fusion E350 here in our place and still cant find any :(

Netbooks said...

Thanks for the article.

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