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AMD Trinity for laptops review

Verdict

AMD’s latest mobile processors make their debut, and promise some much needed competition in the laptop market

Review Date: 15 May 2012

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed:

It’s been almost a year since AMD’s Llano platform made its mobile debut, and now its successor has landed in PC Pro’s Labs. Promising twice the performance per watt of the previous generation, an upgraded graphics core and a whole host of improvements, AMD’s pinning its hopes on Trinity in the battle to win back market share from Intel.

TECHNOLOGY

It’s a major move forward for AMD’s mobile chips. Where AMD’s Llano used a tweaked version of the aged Phenom II architecture, the new generation sees AMD’s updated Bulldozer technology, codenamed Piledriver, make its debut alongside revisions of the integrated Radeon HD 7000 GPUs. It’s this partnership that forms the new Trinity-class accelerated processing unit (APU).

Trinity is still built on a 32nm process, but the transistor count has swelled from Llano’s 1.178 billion transistors to 1.303 billion in the new chips. AMD has added support for the AVX, AVX 1.1 and FMA3 instruction sets, and memory support takes a step forward, too, with the Trinity APU now capable of harnessing DDR3 at up to 1,600MHz and supporting low-voltage, 1.25V DIMMs.

AMD Trinity - Dell Vostro 3400 test-bed - rear

Power efficiency is a driving force behind the new design, with power gating, dynamic voltage and speed control on offer across the whole chip, while individual CPU or GPU cores can be powered down when idle. AMD’s Turbo Core technology also reaches its third generation in the Trinity APU. Turbo Core 3 intelligently adjusts clock speeds on the CPU and GPU, clocking down the GPU and boosting the CPU for single-threaded CPU-based operations, or limiting the CPU to its rated speed while delivering more power to the GPU for gaming.

Trinity’s GPU has received a welcome upgrade too. The Radeon HD 7000 Series GPUs tout up to 384 stream-processing units apiece, and offer DirectX 11 and Shader Model 5 support as well as a significantly improved tessellation engine. AMD is keenly pushing the GPU’s computing capabilities, with the redesigned GPU cores providing higher GPU compute performance than the Llano generation. And, as ever, the integrated GPUs are capable of combining forces with a discrete AMD GPU in CrossFireX mode.

The new architecture will roll out across the A6, A8, A10 and FX ranges, including dual- and quad-core parts, but the new architecture also brings with it the potential for a whole host of new low-powered APUs. Where the most efficient Llano APUs had a minimum TDP of 35W, the new Trinity APUs span 17W, 25W and 35W TDP designs suitable for everything from budget laptops, through to the new HP-branded Ultrabook rivals, Sleekbooks, right up to enthusiast-class gaming laptops.

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