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AMD Yukon chips enable 'ultrathin' laptops

New processor targets cheap ultraportables

AMD hopes to undercut prices of expensive ultraportable laptops with mobile chips it is expected to introduce today.

AMD's new mobile platform, called Yukon, will include chips designed for small and affordable laptops that provide a full PC experience without compromising on features, the company said. The laptops will be similar in size to ultraportable laptops, but less expensive, according to AMD.

The announcement comes ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show, where the company may reveal further details about the chips. CES is being held in Las Vegas Thursday to Saturday.

AMD envisions Yukon laptops delivering performance comparable to more expensive ultraportables, allowing users to run high-definition multimedia, gaming and productivity applications. Yukon-based laptops will be thin and light, with screens between 10in and 14in and prices ranging from $499 to $1,499 in the US, according to AMD.

"While we do see a sweet spot ... in the 11in to 13in range, our OEM partners may choose to use the Yukon platform to deliver products in different form factors targeting different spaces in the market," said Bahr Mahony, director of product marketing at AMD.

An AMD executive late last year said the premium pricing of ultraportable laptops such as the MacBook Air was a key impediment to their adoption by mainstream users. Those users don't have an appetite for expensive ultraportables, AMD has said.

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AMD fits the Yukon chips in a new category it calls 'ultrathin' laptops, which falls between the ultraportable and netbook laptop segments. Ultraportables are too expensive, while netbooks, though cheap, provide a limited PC experience, AMD contends.

The company has said it doesn't want to get into the low-end netbook space dominated by Intel's Atom processor, nor in the mobile space, which Intel is targeting with its Menlow platform. The low-end netbook space delivers low margins per chip, according to industry analysts, and AMD may not be able to compete there with Intel, which is the world's largest chip maker.

HP will offer Yukon chips in the Pavilion dv2 laptop, for which pricing was not immediately available. AMD didn't comment on whether other PC makers were planning to offer Yukon-based laptops.

The platform includes the Neo processor, which runs at 1.6GHz, the M690T chipset and ATI Radeon graphics controllers. It supports as much as 1GB of RAM. Yukon-based laptops can run Microsoft's Windows Vista OS.

AMD declined to comment on pricing or availability of the Yukon platform or Neo chip.

The chips should better position AMD against Intel, which offers specially designed low-power chips being used in ultraportable laptops including the MacBook Air, Lenovo's X300, Fujitsu's LifeBook P8020 and HP's EliteBook 2530p. Intel also develops the Atom processor for netbooks.

Yukon was first announced in November as part of an updated product roadmap. The update was part of an effort to reverse financial losses and better compete with industry leader Intel, analysts said.


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