AMD ships Llano, the ultimate HTPC processor

It has been five years since the AMD/ATI merger promised us the "Fusion" of a CPU and GPU onto a single die, and on Monday AMD finally made good on that promise with the shipping of the company's first true multicore CPU/GPU combo parts, codenamed "Llano." Sure, the Brazos platform launch was technically the first time that AMD put a CPU and GPU onto the same die, but Llano is supposed to be what the company originally intended with Fusion—a combination of CPU cores and vector hardware that's somehow more "integrated" than a normal on-die GPU. (The exact way in which the latter is true is not clear to me; if anyone knows, feel free to enlighten.)

The picture above is from AMD's blog post announcing that Llano is shipping to OEMs, and it shows the workers in the company's Singapore factory surrounding a box that presumably contains one of the first batches of Llano processors.

AMD is calling Llano's combination of a CPU and GPU on the same die an APU, for "accelerated processing unit." Whatever you call it, it's pretty certain that even tech-savvy customers are never going to see Llano as anything other than another CPU/GPU combo part like Brazos and Sandy Bridge. No matter, though—the Llano parts will have their own place in the processor ecosystem, and it will be different from that of Sandy Bridge.

There is no chance that Llano's CPU core will outperform that of Sandy Bridge, given that the former is a straight-up derivative of AMD's existing Phenom II core. But Llano's GPU is another matter entirely. AMD has used their considerable experience in building best-in-class integrated graphics processors (IGPs) to pack a ton of GPU performance onto each Llano die. Llano will be a great gaming portable, and Llano desktops should offer extremely good price/performance ratios for gamers.

If Intel can get the performance of Sandy Bridge's trailing-edge GPU design up to the point where it can outperform low-end discrete graphics cards, then Llano should do even better. Llano's DirectX11-class GPU will beat Sandy Bridge's GPU by a comfortable margin, and should compete with mid-range discrete solutions. Intel won't have anything comparable until its Ivy Bridge launch early next year.

So from now until Ivy Bridge comes up, AMD will have the budget performance notebook and desktop segment pretty much to itself with Llano. Llano will also make a monster of a home theater PC chip, because you'll be able to build a relatively cheap HTPC with some serious gaming chops.

AMD has said that the first Llano parts will show up in laptops, with desktop parts likely to follow later in the summer. The company isn't giving out any details on which specific products are shipping, though—we'll probably get this info as part of an official launch, soon.


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