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We can view the introduction of the AMD Brazos platform and of the Ontario and Zacate processors based on the Bobcat microarchitecture from different standpoints. For example, AMD can be said to finally release its own version of Intel’s Atom which, however, cannot boast any advantages in terms of performance. Thanks to the out-of-order execution, these new processors from AMD feature high single-threaded performance but the senior Zacate model is overall only as good as the Intel Atom D525 in most real-life applications.

However, this is only one, and rather superficial, point of view. The Zacate and Ontario processors in the AMD Brazos platform are not just energy-efficient CPUs similar to the Intel Atom. They are highly integrated APUs that, besides a conventional x86 processing core, incorporate a high-performance graphics core with up-to-date functionality. This endows AMD’s solutions with completely new features compared to the Atom. For example, they can play HD video with minimum CPU load or quickly process web pages with JavaScript and HTML5 or run some other optimized applications that can make use of the graphics core’s stream processors.

Considering this broad functionality of the Zacate and Ontario, the Brazos platform can be viewed not just as an alternative to the Pine Trail but as a new energy-efficient multimedia platform, like the ION, for example. Moreover, the Brazos even comes as an alternative to a non-existing third-generation ION because the first- and second-generation ION solutions are greatly inferior to AMD’s new platform. Particularly, the integrated graphics core of the new APUs delivers higher performance than the ION graphics and also supports DirectX 11.

And while Nvidia has no opportunity to develop its platform for the Intel Atom due to the lack of a license for the processor bus, AMD offers a similar platform for nettops and netbooks with broad multimedia capabilities, full HD video support and vast GPGPU resources. As opposed to the ION platform which is built out of Intel and Nvidia components, AMD offers a complete and integrated solution, so the Brazos is superior not only in energy efficiency but also in terms of pricing.

As a result, the AMD Brazos seems to be the best option available for tiny and power-efficient stationary and mobile computers. AMD took a long time to develop its energy-efficient microarchitecture and postponed it a number of times. As a result, the company is late to the nettop and netbook boom but finally has a really competitive solution. Without a doubt, the Brazos platform is superior to other available platforms of this class. It is a kind of a new Athlon XP among energy-efficient processors. AMD has proved its engineering ability with this release, which looks like a promising symptom after all the recent failures.

But again, users have already lost their initial interest in products of this class and AMD will not be able to rake in profits by benefiting on consumer’s interest towards completely new products. The AMD Brazos platform will surely sell more or less successfully but the company will have to put much effort and choose a flexible pricing policy to ensure a market success for its Zacate and Ontario processors as well as computers based on them. It is tablet PCs that are the hot topic today but our tests cannot say if Bobcat-based processors can be employed in such systems. AMD has plans to reduce the power consumption of that processing core even further but it is unclear when these plans are going to be implemented in actual products.

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