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AMD launches Trinity processors: the Ivy Bridge alternative

AMD launches Trinity processors: the Ivy Bridge alternative

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AMD has pulled back the curtain on their Trinity APUs, promising inexpensive, energy efficient, thin and light notebooks.

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AMD Trinity Die Stock 1024
AMD Trinity Die Stock 1024

Trinity has arrived. We don't yet know when the first systems will ship, but the second-generation of AMD's accelerated processing unit (APU) promises considerable boosts in performance and battery life. AMD has spent quite some time playing second-fiddle to Intel's CPUs, and without some raw performance data, it'll be hard to see how the new Trinity APUs stack up, but AMD says that Trinity hits the performance threshold set by the first-generation Llano processor and purportedly remains competitive with Intel's Ivy Bridge offerings. Fortunately, AMD has received a few design wins to prove its case — we checked out HP's Envy Sleekbook just a week ago, but Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba are also jumping onto the Trinity bandwagon.

Trinity is being aimed at ultrathin notebooks (not to be confused with Intel Ultrabooks), smaller form factor desktops and All-in-Ones, though traditional mainstream laptops and desktops will also see Trinity APUs. AMD will be launching five APUs today. The A10-4600M, A8-4500M, and A6-4400M are aimed at larger, mainstream notebooks, while the A10-4655M and A6-4455M are destined for sleeker ultrathin models.

AMD's Trinity APUs will mark the debut of the company's Piledriver microarchitecture, the successor to the ill-received Bulldozer. Trinity is still based on a 32nm process — Intel, by contrast, recently moved to 22nm with Ivy Bridge. Trinity's die size is actually a bit larger than Llano's: 246 square millimeters, compared to the first generation APU's 228 square millimeters. Trinity also features a higher transistor count at 1.3 billion, but dials the TDP for its notebook variants down to 17W for dual-core CPUs, and 35W for quad-core CPUs, the same as Ivy Bridge — Llano APUs required 35W and 45W for dual- and quad-core, respectively. Desktop Trinity remain at the same 65 to 100W of its Llano predecessors. AMD claims that the dual-core Trinity APU will perform at the same level as the dual-core Llano APU, effectively doubling the performance per watt with the new generation. AMD also claims that Trinity notebooks can expect as 12 hours of battery life (when idle) on their energy efficient Piledriver cores.

AMD has also updated Turbo Core, its automatic-overclocking solution. Turbo Core 3.0 works much as it always has, bumping the CPU's clock speed when there's a bit of thermal headroom for the CPU. Like Intel's chips, it can now automatically overclock the GPU cores, giving you a bit of extra graphical oomph when necessary.

Architecture_image

The GPU takes up a significant chunk of Trinity's architecture, which makes a great deal of sense: AMD is making a concerted push for entertainment, billing Trinity-equipped PCs as the premier combination of performance and value. To that end, the company has baking a slew of features into Trinity, aimed directly and media mavens and gamers.

The most dramatic media-facing change comes in the form of the AMD HD Media Accelerator suite, which consists of features designed to improve the media consuming experience, transparently.

  • AMD Perfect Picture HD: The first step in that transparent user experience is automatic video processing, which will make fine adjustments to image quality on the fly. We were told that this will ultimately come at a cost to potential battery life, albeit a meager one.
  • AMD Quickstream: Most of us spend a fair bit of time watching videos on the web, and have run into the dreaded buffering bar. Quickstream aims to handle bandwidth intelligently: when the PC detects that an application or website is hitting the GPU, Quickstream will assign it a higher priority, theoretically ensuring a smoother experience.
  • AMD Video Converter: Dedicated hardware-based encoding lets Trinity transcode media files faster and more efficiently. The technology also enables full-HD, multi-person video conferencing; AMD is working with companies like Polycom to develop software.
  • AMD Steady Video: We've seen Steady Video before; it was introduced with Llano, and its purpose is to, stabilize shaky recorded video. It's currently supported by Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Windows Media Player — Trinity adds support for VLC, in an upcoming software update.
  • AMD Eyefinity: Eyefinity isn't new, but Trinity will be able to support the multi-display technology without needing a discrete GPU: that means ultrathin laptops that can potentially output to three displays — not including their native monitor.

All told, we're looking at a 28% CPU and a 56% GPU performance increase over Llano. AMD was hesitant to provide pricing information, but the incoming barrage of announcements from PC manufacturers should clear that up a tad. As far as performance is concerned, AMD has provided some cursory benchmark results against some of Intel's Ivy Bridge CPUs, we'll need to wait for proper reviews to get a real idea of where Trinity falls.

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