San Jose, Calif. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp. are pulling neck-and-neck in the race to define the core high-end silicon for notebook computers. Competition among chip and system makers is keen, because notebooks are edging out desktops as the dominant platform in client computing.
The CPU efforts come as notebook designers strive to differentiate their systems by packing new features into ever thinner, lighter models. Over the next year, system makers are looking to ultrawideband technology as a way of making their portables stand out.
AMD last week announced its Griffin CPU, the first processor it has designed from the ground up for notebooks, along with a companion chip set. All the parts are geared to ship early next year.
The CPU-chip set combo, collectively known as Puma, helps AMD pull even with Intel or possibly, in some areas, gain a slight technical edge. That positions AMD to compete for the first time on high-end notebook designs with top-tier suppliers, shifting the business dynamics in this sector.
Griffin is roughly on par with Intel's current notebook CPU in power-managed performance, thanks in part to a broad range of CPU features, including AMD's decision to put its two cores on separate power planes so they can be independently managed. But the accompanying chip set offers certain features as much as six months ahead of Intel, and that is where AMD gains its edge. The chip set supports the latest Microsoft Corp. DX10 graphics application programming interface. It packs hardware support for H.264 for high- definition DVD decode, along with 5-GHz PCI Express ports and both the HDMI and emerging DisplayPort interfaces.
Intel's current Santa Rosa chip set supports none of those features. Intel will catch up with some but not all of them with a chip set dubbed Montevina, due for release in the second half of 2008.
Montevina will support DX10 graphics and H.264 acceleration for playback of one high-definition movie. Intel does not expect to support 5-GHz PCI Express until 2010, however, in part because keep- ing power low is more important than ratcheting up from the existing 2.5-GHz PCI Express interface. Similarly, Intel will not expose its emerging Common Systems Interface on notebook CPUs until sometime after 2009.