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Promising new PC experiences, AMD launches its Richland combo graphics-microprocessor chips

Advanced Micro Devices is announcing a new generation of PC chips today that will deliver what the company calls high-end computing with “stunning graphics and immersive experiences.” And it will generate much better battery life than in the past for portable computers.

But perhaps the coolest thing these chips may enable has nothing to do with what computers have done in the past. AMD wants computer makers to use the processing power it is delivering to handle tasks like face recognition and gesture controls. Of course, this is the same thing that Intel has been touting for a while, calling it “perceptual computing.” It’s not a bad use of computing power, considering that most people don’t need computers that are a lot faster at running spreadsheets.

The code-named Richland platform is a single chip with both microprocessor and graphics capabilities. It will now be introduced under the name AMD Elite A-Series APUs (for accelerated processing units), or AMD’s name for combo chips. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD claims a 50 percent performance bump over Intel’s higher-priced Core i7 processor. The APUs have two or four cores, and can run at clock speeds from 2.1 gigahertz to 3.5 gigahertz.

Standard voltage chips are shipping now and initial shipments for computer makers will start shipping next month. Low-voltage versions for ultrathin laptops will come later in the first half of this year. Machines with the AMD chips are expected on store shelves this month, said Kevin Lensing, AMD Director of Notebook Client Product Marketing, in a press call. The new chips are the successor to AMD’s successful Trinity platform.

“The high performance AMD A-Series APU continues to impress with its ability to deliver stunning graphics and immersive experiences with even more battery life. Our engineers have done a superb job of increasing processor performance while decreasing power consumption,” said Bernd Lienhard, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD’s Client Business Unit, in a statement. “With the capabilities built into our 2013 AMD Elite A-Series APUs, including new software for gesture control, facial recognition, rich entertainment and more lifelike gaming, we are delivering an ever richer experience to end users and our customers.”

The products are targeted at computers that feature new kinds of experiences for consumers. AMD promises improved experiences such as facial log-in and gesture recognition, but some of those features will likely be delivered by other firms that can create the software that taps into AMD’s processors. Machines with the AMD chips will deliver better entertainment and gaming experiences.

In a conference call, AMD talked up features such as AMD Face Login3, which uses face recognition software and a webcam to allow for quick logins. It also introduced AMD Gesture Control4, which tracks a user’s hand gestures and converts them into commands for basic functions on media players, browsers, and other apps.

The AMD Screen Mirror5 enabled by Richland can wirelessly share content like photos, videos, HD media streams, and webpages. AMD promises better video playback and streaming. A laptop with the new AMD chips can handle 7.9 hours of web browsing on a battery charge, or 5.7 hours of high-definition video playback, or 10 hours of resting battery life. It has a 47 percent improvement over the the previous generation in HD video playback power. That means you can watch more movies on one charge.

While the previous Trinity chips used 5.5 watts while idle, Richland uses just 5.2 watts. And while Trinity used 12.8 watts during 720p video playback, Richland uses just 9.6 watts.


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