AMD has announced its next generation of PC CPUs, aimed at systems headed to store shelves in the spring and summer of 2014.
Most of the details of these new chips, and the PC hardware partners building products around them, are being held until2014 in January, but AMD is eager to publicize the new code names and some performance claims early.
The previous low-power and ultra-low-power platforms, code named Kabini and Temash, are being replaced with new versions called Beema and Mullins. Both sets of parts, however, use the familiar consumer-facing A4, A6, A8, etc., branding (the higher the number, the more powerful the CPU).
The big jump, according to AMD, is that these chips are more power efficient, while also offering better performance. That's especially important, as AMD has lagged behind rival Intel in both of these metrics for some time. The company says it is especially interested in providing quad-core CPUs for next year's thinner, fanless PC designs.
AMD is also adding new security features to appeal to IT professionals. The Trusted Execution Environment splits the system into normal and secure domains, and may help AMD gain a bigger foothold in the corporate environment, where security and manageability is important. Like the performance gains, we expect more details early in 2014.
Recent high-profile AMD-powered laptops and hybrids have looked good on paper, but in CNET Labs testing, they have either disappointed, or else seemed overpriced for the performance and battery life offered.
For example, the recent Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite was pitched as an affordable ultrabook, but it cost $799 when launched, and the performance and battery life felt like they belonged in a less-expensive system.
Even more recently, the Toshiba Satellite Click was an ambitious attempt to build a low-cost AMD-powered hybrid. It launched at $599, which is reasonable for a Windows 8 tablet PC with a separate keyboard attachment, but the performance felt especially sluggish and the the tablet screen ran for only three hours, making the device feel more like a Netbook than anything else.
Both of the examples above may find a sweet spot at the right price, but that variable is largely in the hands of PC makers, not AMD itself. Despite a smaller PC market share than Intel, AMD has had great success in game consoles of late, as the company is providing graphics hardware for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.