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Dual-core AMD Neo targets high-end netbooks

Congo platform promises better performance

AMD plans to release dual-core Neo processors in the second half of this year.

The dual-core Neo chips will be part of the Congo platform, which will deliver better performance and integrated graphics capabilities to ultraportable laptops, said John Taylor, an AMD spokesman. He couldn't provide an exact release date for the Neo chips.

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The first single-core Neo processor was announced by the company last week at the Consumer Electronics Show. The chip was part of the new Yukon platform, which includes a chipset and ATI graphics controllers.

Neo chips are power-efficient processors designed for sub-laptops that can provide a full PC experience, according to AMD. AMD fits Neo into a new category of PCs 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 Neo chip consumes a maximum of 15W and AMD plans to develop more chips in the same cost and power profile in the future, said Randy Allen, senior vice president of the computing solutions group at AMD. Users can expect to see ever-increasing performance and improved battery life as AMD develops future chips and power management features.

AMD is not focusing on reducing the power consumption of its chips for netbooks, which are small, low-power laptops designed to enable basic PC applications like web surfing and productivity software.

Netbooks are attractive for certain uses - like in the kitchen or living room for internet browsing - but won't be part of mainstream computing market because the form factor limits display and keyboard size as well as processor performance, Allen said.

The company wants to deliver chips and platforms that provide an effective combination of graphics, processor and chipset for a balanced computing performance, Allen said. The chips might use more power than chips used in netbooks like Intel's Atom processor, but they will deliver a full PC experience.

AMD could dabble in what it calls the "higher-end netbook" space with Neo chips, which use higher-power chips that could degrade the battery life of netbooks, but deliver better overall performance.

Higher-end netbooks could blur the lines between netbooks and ultraportables as thin and light laptops, and AMD prefers to remain at the crosshairs of the segments, Allen said.

"What's going to happen over time is you'll see the emergence of platforms... like the ultraportable. I think that's going to become a more dominant part of the market. I think it's going to suppress the growth rates on the netbook because more and more people will figure out 'I'm willing to spend $699 to get [an ultraportable] rather a couple of hundred dollars less to get a netbook.'"


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