AMD Pounces on Laptops With New Puma Platform

AMD has released a new mobile processor platform, its latest contender as it battles for market share with archrival Intel.

Codenamed “Puma,” the offering includes Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core Mobile processors with ATI Radeon HD 3000 Series Graphics and wireless networking hardware from Atheros, Broadcom and Ralink.

Puma is the first major effort AMD has made to develop a mobile chip, said Nathan Brookwood, research fellow at Insight 64. “In the past, AMD took its desktop chip and just made minor tweaks. [With Puma], they started to tackle some of the problems so that they could improve battery life and the capabilities of their system,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The chips will go up against Intel’s Centrino 2 mobile processor. Computer makers including Acer, HP and Toshiba will include the Puma platform in their notebook designs, according to AMD.

Puma will anchor AMD’s recently announced initiatives, the AMD Business Class, AMD Game and AMD Live Solutions.

When Pumas Attack

AMD touts the new mobile platform, available in three configurations, as a combination of components designed to provide better high-definition performance on a mobile computer.

However, the chief accomplishment with the Puma is its battery life, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“[It is the] first truly mobile part from AMD. Up until now, AMD couldn’t compete on battery life, and Puma is much more competitive on spec,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Coming off six consecutive losing quarters, Enderle said, AMD could leverage Puma to regain ground it’s lost to Intel in the past year. The beleaguered chipmaker accounts for around 15 percent of the laptop market, while Intel owns a commanding 85 percent.

However, the release of Puma comes on the heels of news from Intel that the availability of its Centrino 2 chipset has been pushed back from a June date to July 14, giving AMD a much-needed opening.

“It isn’t an Intel killer, but with the delay of Centrino 2, it does give AMD a window of opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It really depends on the design wins they get, but it should help them in the mobile market significantly,” Enderle noted.

Graphic Gains

AMD gained its 15 percent market share even though its mobile offerings were not on par with those from Intel, Brookwood said.

“Over the last two years, AMD has gone from being a nobody in terms of mobile networks to having something in the 13 to 15 percent range of market share. They did that with products that were clearly inferior to products Intel was selling. Now that they actually have products that close that gap with Intel — I don’t think they surpass Intel — AMD has narrowed Intel’s lead, and the integrated graphics in these Puma platforms are clearly superior to the integrated graphics in the Intel platform,” he explained.

That is significant because nearly 75 percent of notebooks sold today are sold without any additional graphics hardware aside from what has been built into the integrated supporting logic, Brookwood continued.

“AMD’s graphics are superior to Intel, especially in regard to high-definition and watching an HD movie. The AMD products are differentiated in positive ways,” he noted, adding that this should help AMD gain a portion of the laptop market.

Waiting for Benchmarks

How well Puma will be able to compete against Intel’s Centrino 2 will remain a question at least for the next 30 days, Enderle pointed out.

“Intel will probably sustain an advantage in battery life, but I’m expecting Puma to do better in graphics performance. We are all waiting for good benchmarks from Centrino 2 and Puma and will likely not get them — thanks to the Centrino 2 delay — for a month or so,” he concluded.

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