Does AMD Have the Right VISION for Notebooks?


amd-visionSo if you had to guess how many possible AMD (s amd) stickers there are for computers, how many would you say? Do you think there are more than 50? How about 100? Nope, you’re not even close — you can currently find 221 different AMD stickers on various hardware components. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry because it’s all about to get much easier thanks to AMD’s new VISION platform. VISION will reduce those 221 stickers down to three, making it easier for consumers to understand what a particular computer is suited for certain activities.

Last week, I spoke with Bob Grim, the Director of Product Marketing at AMD, to get details of the new VISION branding and platform.

Bob told me that most people know what they want to do with a computer before they buy it. The problem is — it’s difficult to determine how well a computer will meet those needs based on specifications alone. I explained that we have some tech savvy readers that have a good feel for what specs they need, but I admitted that many mainstream consumers ask questions like “Can I run Word?” or “Does this machine play games?” Bob says that the new AMD VISION stickers will simply the approach for most consumers, while still allowing for detailed specifications to be scrutinized. The entire notion relies around three levels of computing, which AMD equates to see, share and create.

  • VISION = the “see” level. It’s to consume basic content like email and web pages.
  • VISION Premium = Builds on seeing activities with sharing and transcoding video.
  • VISION Ultimate = the most powerful level can see, share and also create content.

Although the base VISION platform sounds comparable to Intel’s Atom (s intc), Bob explained that the target machine is really the company’s second generation ultra-thin segment. Yes, there will be some “spillover” as consumers consider slightly smaller netbooks but AMD figures their advantage is in the advanced graphics capabilities, even against Intel’s CULV platform. In AMD’s testing they show gains over competing solutions, with 43% better Windows Movie Maker performance while 3-D gaming clocks in at 77% better. These chips also support DirectX 10.1 and Blu-Ray movie playback.

While the graphics might be better during testing, one of the big benefits gained from Intel’s Atom and CULV platforms is battery life. The new AMD VISION platform still suffers by comparison, but not as much with this next generation. That was one of my main issues with the HP DV2, which used the first-generation solution from AMD. Some OEMs that have adapted the AMD VISION product — there are now 10 for the ultra-thin platform — are reporting battery life between 5.5 and 6 hours, although I expect those results are with an extended battery. AMD’s own testing for the ultra-thin solution shows 2 hours and 26 minutes of active battery life or five and half hours in a resting state. In the end, consumers will have to decide what they always have to decide — do they want performance for the sake of battery life or vice versa?

One other interesting tidbit that I learned about the new chips is that they all support every feature of Windows 7. That means a light and thin device running on AMD Vision in lieu of Intel’s Atom will support Virtual PC mode. The Atom doesn’t, so if you plan to run XP Mode in Windows 7, a 12″ or 13″ AMD notebook might a better choice for your gadget bag.

With the tests showing faster HD video editing, transcoding, 3-D gaming and such, the only question left in my mind is the one that AMD is trying to answer with their new VISION branding: what activities do people want to do with their notebooks? If the answer is basic browsing and light content consumption, I think the graphical advantage offered by AMD is lost on folks that prefer longer battery life. On the other hand, if consumers start to transcode video on the road in greater numbers, AMD’s successful vision might come to pass.

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