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Can AMD ever beat Intel?

Jason Cross | April 17, 2011
AMD has held its own and generally outperformed Intel through the introduction of the Athlon 64.


How AMD can compete

So how can AMD hope to compete? First, it can wisely pick its targets. AMD did a great job of this with its Fusion C and E series processors. They're designed to compete against Intel's Atom processors in the market where Atom is delivering unsatisfactory experiences: low-cost netbooks. AMD saw the ways Atom disappoints -- sluggish in-order execution processing cores and lackluster graphics and video support -- and made a tiny, energy-efficient processor that is cheap and low-power enough to go into laptops that addresses those key issues.

As Intel focuses on making Atom smaller and more energy efficient to end up in tablets and smartphones, AMD could continue to do well by making designs laser-targeted at the small and light $400 laptop. For the time being, AMD would be wise not to take on Intel were it is strongest.

Second, AMD should continue to focus on graphics. Video and graphics performance increasingly defines the way people use their PCs, and the focus on using graphics hardware to accelerate the web will only increase its importance. Intel has recognized this as put forth serious effort into dramatically improving its integrated graphics in the "Sandy Bridge" 2nd generation Core processors, but they're still quite a bit behind what AMD can do.

Fusion A series processors aimed at mid-priced laptops (code-named Llano), will push integrated graphics far beyond the already impressive low-power Fusion C and E processor. That's should be just the start. AMD should do everything in its power to make sure that, if you don't buy a system with a discrete graphics card, the graphics and video are going to be night-and-day better on an AMD system than an Intel system. And, if you are going with discrete graphics, make sure a Radeon brand card offers the best bang for the buck and lowest power utilization at all price tiers. That's a tall order, but it's totally in AMD's wheelhouse.

AMD should just concede the tablet and phone markets for the time being. It will take years of fighting for marketshare and enormous engineering resources to chase down the competition in that arena. To make a real competitive solution, AMD has to beat the efforts of ARM, Intel, Nvidia, PowerVR, Samsung, TI, Qualcomm... It will consume R&D resources that could be spent making awesome processors for more traditional computers. Sure, smartphones and tablets are growth industries and the next Windows will run on ARM processors in addition to x86, but traditional computers aren't going away anytime soon.


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