AMD has given a first public demonstration of Zacate, its low-power platform that will compete with Intel’s Sandy Bridge next year.
Zacate processors (pronounced za-caa-té) are built on AMD's Bobcat core, revealed last month, combining two CPU cores and a GPU on the same die. The chips are designed to be small, cheap and efficient, with a 40nm fabrication process and a low thermal design power of 18W.
AMD had previously described Bobcat as a "netbook processor", but today, immediately after the close of the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, AMD showed a prototype Zacate notebook competing against a current-generation Core i5 laptop in two 3D games. In Batman: Arkham Asylum the Zacate system achieved a framerate around 50% higher than the i5, while in City of Heroes: Going Rogue it achieved around twice the performance of Intel’s system.
“We’re looking at the market for $500 laptops here,” explained AMD marketing director Bob Grim. “This is for mainstream and below: really we expect to compete with the Core i3. But here we’re comparing with an i5, and we’re seeing improvements of 50-100% everywhere.”
This is for mainstream and below: really we expect to compete with the Core i3.
Grim promised that Zacate systems would also enjoy exceptional battery life. “In our labs, we’re seeing over 10 hours from this system. The end products might be a little different, depending on the screens, et cetera. But basically, you’re getting that type of battery life, with discrete-class graphics.”
Outside of graphical applications, Zacate remains a low-power chip. “It’s going to be acceptable on the CPU side,” Grim predicted, modestly.
But he assured visitors that Zacate, and the single-core variant known as Ontario, have a bright future.
“We have so many great relationships, and so many great design wins here. We’ve never had momentum like this with a new platform, and we think it’s going to be very competitive.”
New Radeon cards by Christmas
AMD also revealed that the forthcoming Radeon HD 6000 series of graphics cards – the first to shed the ATI name and sell as AMD products – will be launched in time for Christmas. But there was absolutely no technical information on offer.
“I can’t go into any details yet,” apologised AMD director David Hoff, “but let’s say it’s a nice, different architecture. I wouldn’t say it’s an absolutely complete, from the ground up, new design but it’s certainly more than changing a sticker.”
Asked whether AMD was set to re-establish an unequivocal technical lead over rival Nvidia, Hoff remained coy: “I hope so, at some point!”
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk