Let's clear something up real quick. You may have read that AMD will power ultrathin laptops designed to compete with Intel's ultrabook machine. You might even have heard rumors that those AMD-based laptops will be up to $200 cheaper than those powered by Intel. Some of that might be true, but there's a crucial fact to consider: AMD doesn't make laptops, it makes processors, and the company went on the record to tell us that many of the things that make the new wave of thin-and-light notebooks so desirable are up to the actual notebook manufacturers. Thinness and battery life aren't guaranteed to be part of the deal, because unlike Intel, AMD isn't mandating any minimum specifications for what a thin laptop should be. Here's what the company told us today:
AMD is not forcing OEM partners to adhere to design specifications; we think they know best what their customers want. AMD simply provides APU’s that will help to enable even better experiences in thinner form factors at realistic price points. As far as names, AMD is calling them ultrathin notebooks but won't brand that in any way.
So why do you hear AMD throwing around the word "ultrathin" like it's a catchphrase? Simply because that's how the company's been selling its mobile silicon for years: AMD has called its low-voltage processors and chipsets an "ultrathin platform" since its Yukon chips went on sale in early 2009. So, since AMD has long had cheaper processors than Intel, it seems a little odd to make a big deal about its next generation of processors being cheaper, too. When AMD says "ultrathin," what it really means is "low voltage," which is a crucial trait for processors that go into ultrathin machines but not a guarantee.
Now, obviously there are pluses and minuses to AMD's lack of a minimum spec, and we'd be lying if we weren't a little bit worried that AMD systems might not have the thinness, build quality and battery life of Intel's progeny... but do remember that if OEMs want their laptops to sell, they'll have to be competitive regardless of the underlying silicon. Besides, have you seen what AMD's Trinity chips are capable of? It'd be a crying shame if we couldn't play graphically potent games on a razor-thin AMD machine by this time next year.