AMD wins a big victory as HP adopts its chips in 14 new laptops

Handing a big victory to Advanced Micro Devices over Intel, Hewlett-Packard is announcing today it is launching 14 new laptops with AMD microprocessors.

The new business that comes to AMD from HP — the world’s biggest computer maker — may not be that huge. But it’s a sign of the potential that AMD can reach if it keeps on executing on its chip designs.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD has played second fiddle to Intel, the world’s biggest chip maker, for many years in laptop microprocessors. For nearly a decade, Intel has focused on creating low-power microprocessors that are power efficient, while AMD has focused more on server and desktop chips.

But today, Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP is using AMD chips across a bunch of new HP Pavilion and Compaq business laptops. The new HP ProBook s-series, HP ProBook b-series, and Compaq notebook computers will have the new AMD Phenom II, AMD Turion II, AMD Athlon, and AMD V-Series processors in them.

“Businesses and consumers can turn to HP not only for the deepest portfolio of notebook products, but also for a wide range of technology choices to meet specific mobile computing needs,” said Ted Clark, senior vice president and general manager for the notebook global business unit in HP’s Personal Systems Group.

Choice is one reason AMD is still around. Intel outsells AMD by a big margin, selling four chips for every one that AMD sells. But computer makers realize that if they give all of their business to Intel, they’ll wind up paying higher prices for their most expensive components.

The new victory for AMD is a small one in the grand scheme of things. Even as AMD chases Intel in laptops, Intel is expanding with its Atom chips into tablet computers, phones and other territory. Intel still has a lot of chips in HP laptops as well as HP desktops and servers. Intel and HP are joined at the hip on their Itanium chip project at the very high end of computing. And a number of other computers that HP is launching today also use Intel chips. But after years of failing, AMD has finally come up with decent low-power laptop chips. It’s like a crack in the armor of Intel, and we’ll see how much the fissure widens.

Intel still has an advantage over AMD in terms of performance per watt of power consumed, which in turn translates into longer laptop battery life. But in the new models, the trade-off in choosing AMD chips isn’t as bad. At any given performance level, Intel might have a 45-minute battery life advantage, HP says, and that’s not big enough to justify going 100-percent Intel.

The newest AMD Phenom II dual-core N620 processor has 69 percent faster performance than the previous generation HP AMD-powered laptops and up to 24 percent longer battery life. HP is adopting AMD’s newest brand names for selling computers: Vision and Vision Pro. Those brand names help simplify how retailers can explain computing performance to shoppers in a kind of “good, better, best” parlance.

The models include a “thin and light” HP Pavilion dm3 model, with cool etched patterns and a sleek metal finish. The 4.2-pound laptop is an inch thick and can run on battery power for seven hours. Another model is the HP ProBook 4425s with brushed-aluminum metal casing in “caviar” or “bordeaux” colors. These machines have screens ranging from 13.3 to 15.6 inches, and they start as low as $619. Besides using AMD processors, they also use AMD’s ATI Mobility Radeon graphics chips. More product specs are on HP’s web site. (Pictured above: the HP 425 laptop, with a variety of AMD processors in models that start as low as $549).

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