Friday, July 6, 2012

Is the AMD Trinity mobile chip a game changer?

Tablets are the first serious challenge to the laptops as the top mobile computing platform. In 2011, Intel launched the Ultrabook, a new term coined by Intel for Thin lightweight laptops. The Ultrabook itself is nothing new. Manufacturers have been building ultra thin and light laptops for years, but at a premium price. With the Ultrabook, Intel was pushing for devices similar to these premium offerings with a price point of not higher than US$999.  But Apple's iPad's start at US$399, and Android tablets can cost even less, so laptop manufacturers have targeted an even lower price point for Ultrabook like devices. 

While Ultrabook have been out in the Philippines now for eight months, priced at Php45,000 or higher, the price is too high for the average Philippine consumer. A few months ago, Acer priced one of their Ultrabooks at just below 40K. Still, the go to device for a person looking for a portable computer has been the netbook, the low cost 11.6-inch laptops and tablets. 

Now we have the AMD powered "Ultrabook". An AMD powered laptop cannot properly be considered an Ultrabook, since that is an Intel trademarked term. But placing a AMD chipset in a chassis designed for an Intel Ultrabook gives you a "Ultrabook" like laptop but at a much lower cost.

The chassis of Samsung series 5 looks sleek and modern.

Samsung sells their Series 5 NP530UC Ultrabook at Php42,900, a 13-inch laptop which is just 0.69-inches thick and weighs in at just 3.2 pounds. This slim and light package is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, has 500 GB of storage and over six hours of battery life. At its 43K price, the best value for money option insofar 13-inch ultraportable laptops available in the Philippine market are concerned. Still, the market for 43K laptops in the Philippines is not all too big.

Just 0.69-inches thick at Php29,900. Will it make every other budget laptop look obsolete?

So Samsung yanked out the SSD cache drive and pulled out the Intel Core i5 processor and Intel board.  In placed it put in one of AMD Trinity A6-4455M Accelerated Processing Unit, combines a 2.1 GHz dual core processor (Turbo boost up to 2.6 GHz) and a AMD Radeon 7500 HD graphics. While this combination is not as powerful as the Intel Core i5 variant, it is fast enough to do your work related stuff, like typing documents and preparing spreadsheets and presentations. It also has enough power to run your photo editor, play HD content and do some 3D gaming. 

11.6-inch laptops means some degree of compromise on the keyboard. 13.3-inches has more than enough room for a full sized keyboard.

But the main reason for putting in AMD parts (together with an operating system and a smaller battery) is price. Samsung was able to bring down the price of the AMD powered Series 5 NP535UC to just Php29,900. This will make it more accessible to a larger customer base. 

The question is, is this a game changer. While Intel is leveraging its Ultrabook to re-ignite the laptop market, will these now lower cost Ultra slim AMD laptops make every Php20,000 to Php30,000 laptop obsolete? For less money than the Series 5 NP535UC you can get a more powerful 13-inch or 14-inch Intel powered laptop. But these laptops are thicker and weight at about 5 pounds.

AMD's Fusion E-350 and E-450 have basically taken over the local 11.6-inch Ultraportable market. There are not all that many Intel powered 11.6-inch in the market offered. AMD's A6-4455M is more powerful than E-450 and now competes in price with the lower cost 11.6-inch Intel power Ultraportables. A Samsung Series 5 NP535UC weighs just about as much as a Intel powered Lenovo Thinkpad e120, while providing a larger display and keyboard.

While AMD processors are loosing ground on almost all fronts, it looks like Trinity may take over the low cost Ultraportable market in developing countries.

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