Aug 242012

When buying a netbook, you had to pick two of the following: speed, long battery life, larger screen, and affordability.   It was a bit better with laptops, where you had to pick two out of three: speed, battery life, and affordability, but the things may finally be changing with new AMD processors which can provide a holistic combination of the three, making an excellent, well, Trinity, which happens to be the new processor code name.

The name really comes from the three main architectural segments of the machine – the CPU, GPU and the video processing engine (for hardware-based video decoding and multi display connectivity).

Although we haven’t seen anything too impressive in the benchmarks of these latest quad core processors (A10, A8 and A6) with the second and improved edition of the AMD’s APU technology that would give them advantage over Intel’s second and third generation Core processors, the numbers can sometimes be deceiving.  The revolutionary approach is having the CPU (main processor) combined with the GPU (graphics processor), which makes the computer use both processing power plants more efficiently.  I didn’t want to comment before some laptops with these appeared on the market, but based on what I see, the concept might work really well in the long run and in the real life and it may make a nice chunk of change for AMD’s future endeavors.

The CPU is supposedly quad core, but it doesn’t really have everything in four separate units because of the shared floating point units, with one serving every two CPU cores.  Still, that saves power and money, but gets elegantly compensated by the extra floating point calculations that can now be performed by some of the numerous cores of the GPU processor, what then makes the entire system much more efficient.

Whenever in the past you wanted a significantly longer battery life, you had to go for an ultra low voltage processor and end up with a scaled down machine, almost slowed down to a crawl.  Anybody who’s experienced the difference between the regular Core i7 and the ULV (ultra low voltage) Core i7 in the otherwise identical laptop will agree.  It’s like giving away a racing horse for a much more durable mule, or replacing a BMW 335i with a Toyota Prius – you get the efficiency in exchange for speed.  However, with APU, you might just get what was so far considered impossible, the optimal combo without a major sacrifice: a long battery life with a very responsive performance at quite an affordable price.  Not only that, but you can finally play demanding video games on a budget laptop.

I didn’t use to care for a video “muscle” before, but one of the main reasons why I would go for a laptop with the new AMD A10, A8 or an A6 processor is the ability to run the flight simulator in Google Earth and fly around the Grand Canyon and other beautiful landscapes with maximum 3D settings without a slowdown and the heat and the fan commotion I get from my current two year old Toshiba Portege with Intel Arrandale Core i3 CPU.

So as I said in the beginning, the numbers are often deceiving.  The new Trinity chips are not even close to beating the Intel’s computational speed except as before, in video performance without a discrete video card, but every one of these processors is sort of jack of all trades, providing an amazing deal for the price.   This makes them perfect for an average user.

This is currently being confirmed by the end user reviews of the very popular and affordable HP Pavilion m6-1035dx at Best Buy.  I wouldn’t buy it because like many other consumer laptops it has a chiclet keyboard which is “against my religion”, but so far the reviews are great and everybody loves it.  It even has a backlit keyboard, virtually impossible to find in other systems priced under $600 (last week’s price was$580 – this last week of August 2012 it’s $650). Considering it’s a quad core, it has an amazing battery longevity, although not the listed 9 hours.  The overall experience is good and it runs cool.  Add to that the awareness that you’re not getting your slower video performance you’re used to with Intel, you may reconsider your CPU choices.  I’m willing to do the same.   AMD has been the underdog all these decades, but it’s a darn good one.  If they didn’t exist, they should been invented.

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