Following the recent leak of a 1.9GHz A8-3530MX CPU/GPU combo from chipmaker AMD, the company has now officially announced its new line of processors, the A-series. Though we're likely to still call them CPUs, these chips actually combine a traditional CPU and discrete-level GPU. AMD calls this combination of CPU and GPU an APU, or Accelerated Processing Unit. Formerly, the A-series was known under the code name Llano.
We've previously been impressed with the lower-end E-series CPU/GPU combo, most often seen in the form of the E-350 CPU/Radeon HD 6310 GPU found in 11-inch laptops such as HP's excellent Pavilion dm1z. All these current-gen AMD chips are also bundled under the larger Fusion brand name.
The new A-series APUs--available as the A4, A6, and A8--are meant for mid- to high-level laptops, and the company describes the new parts by saying, "AMD A-Series APUs combine up to four x86 CPU cores with powerful DirectX 11-capable discrete-level graphics and up to 400 Radeon cores along with dedicated HD video processing on a single chip."
The high-end quad-core A8 is targeted for "enthusiast HD and 3D entertainment," with the quad-core A6 for "HD creation and Blu-ray entertainment," and the lower-end dual-core A4 (comparable to Intel's Core i3) for "Photo editing and HD movie playback."
The claims made by AMD about the A-series chips are interesting, with the company listing "more than 10.5 hours of resting battery life," as a talking point (although we're not sure how useful "resting" battery life is to anyone); and we've seen impressive demos of video playback with real-time image stabilization running (fixing a shaky YouTube video, for example). The Fusion platform also supports features such as HDMI 1.4a, DisplayPort 1.1, and USB 3.0, as well as 3D gaming and 3D Blu-ray playback (a compatible display and glasses are required, of course).
Higher-end models will also offer a separate discrete graphics card on top of the bundled GPU, in a setup called AMD Dual Graphics. The physically discrete GPU can be set to turn off while the system is not plugged into an outlet, in order to extend battery life. More about the technical workings of the AMD A-series can be found in this interview with an AMD executive.
AMD expects more than 150 laptops and desktop to use A-series parts starting almost immediately. From conversations we've had, these will mostly be midprice mainstream laptops, with one just-announced example being the new Toshiba Satellite P700, with the AMD A6-3400M APU, starting at $629.
The first company to announce a full line of AMD A-series laptops is HP. None of these are actually new laptop models, but instead existing products that are getting new CPU options with AMD parts. The following HP laptops, from both the consumer and business lines, will now include AMD A-series options between late June and July (listed along with starting prices):
- Pavilion dv4 - $599
- Pavilion dv6 - $599
- Pavilion dv7 - $699
- Pavilion g4 - $449
- Pavilion g6 - $498
- Pavilion g7 - $499
- ProBook 6465b - $679 (b-series)
- ProBook 6565b
- ProBook 4535s - $519 (s-series)
- ProBook 4435s
- ProBook 4436s