While it’s long been in the shadow of rival Intel Corp, chipmaker AMD Inc. was the processing newsmaker of 2011 with a number of high profile product launches and innovations that shook up the market and leave the company poised to gain ground on its traditional rival.
It began in January in Toronto when Ben Bar-Haim, general manager for AMD Canada, unveiled the vendor’s new Fusion processor line. Fusion is the first processor family to combine the central processing unit and the graphics processing unit (GPU) onto a single piece of silicon. The GPU is becoming increasingly important to the performance of modern computers as video becomes more pervasive, and Fusion’s approach allows for improved performance with savings on space and power consumption.
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“By providing a much better graphics processor in this tiny little Fusion processor we’re able to process a new category of applications that are really about the visual experience. And in small devices, like netbooks,” said Bar-Haim.
Much of the GPU knowledge and expertise comes from AMD’s acquisition in 2006 of Markham, Ont.-based ATI Technologies. Of the 1,800 people of AMD Canada’s research facilities centred in Markham, more than one third were involved in the Fusion project.
Following another launch in June, Fusion now includes three product families. The A-series APUs will target mainstream laptops and desktops, and the C-series and E-series are for mobile devices, such as netbooks and tablets.
While business users may not see the need for an APU instead of a CPU at first, they’ll benefit from power savings and improved image rendering and performance, said AMD. Web browsers also leverage the GPU. Graphics acceleration is automatically enabled in Internet Explorer 9, but needs to be enabled from the options menu in Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox.