Standalone Notebook GPUs Are Coming Back As ATI and Nvidia Record Design Wins

ATI, Nvidia Claim Massive Design Wins for Standalone Mobile GPUs

by Anton Shilov
06/03/2010 | 12:27 PM

Sales of standalone graphics processing units (GPUs) for mobile computers have been decreasing for many years now, but it looks like the recent design wins from ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, and Nvidia Corp. show that the trend may be over.


According to ATI, among 135 design wins for the Vision 2010 platform, half of the systems can feature discrete ATI GPUs and there are at least twenty of them that do sport standalone graphics processors. Nvidia claims that it has around 50 design wins with its Optimus technology, which dynamically enables and disables modern GeForce M-series graphics chip, which means that this year there will be over one hundred of notebook designs that can sport discrete GPUs.

“Roughly half of AMD Vision 2010 designs are discrete graphics capable. OEMs have the flexibility to ship discrete graphics or integrated graphics based on their target price points and customer/market requirements. Today PC OEMs typically do not design discrete-only notebooks. Providing a platform with integrated graphics gives the OEM added flexibility to take a single design and build multiple SKUs that typically require the full chipset. […] Our new platforms will not arrive in stores until late June and some assortment decisions are subject to change between now and then,” said John Swinimer, a spokesman for AMD's graphics business unit.

At present ATI commands around half of overall standalone mobile graphics chip shipments and the share may actually grow since the company’s latest code-named Manhattan DirectX 11-compatible lineup of processors is considerably more energy-efficient compared to Nvidia Corp.’s Fermi-series chips and offer higher performance than Nvidia’s previous-generation 40nm family.

“ATI is indeed bucking the trend and increasing their share of discrete GPUs in the notebook space, as the chart and data reflect. ATI recognized the demand for better graphics performance in the European and China market and targeted those markets successfully. ATI did not participate in the netbook category and concentrated on mobile workstation and desktop replacement where discrete are used and appreciated,” said Jon Peddie, the principal analyst at Jon Peddie Research (JPR).

The importance of high-performance graphics engines is generally increasing. Even now graphics processors – such as ATI Radeon or Nvidia GeForce – can process general-purpose applications and the number of such programs, which can be accelerated using GPUs, will only grow.

However, it is a question whether the share of discrete notebook GPUs will continue to grow in the long-term. Next year both AMD and Intel plan to integrate high-speed graphics cores into their central processing units (CPUs) and thanks to closer integration, so-called super high-performance process technologies and overall speed gains, the efficiency and performance of those integrated graphics processors (IGPs) will be much higher compared to today’s IGPs.

“Intel's new Sandy Bridge processor, AMD's new Llano processor and its little brother, Ontario, will [be able to process graphics very efficiently thanks to close integration between x86 and graphics cores]. We will have the hardware readily available by 2011, [but] the software to exploit it will probably not be available until 2012 or 2013. [Such integration is] inevitable, and essential. It is inefficient to physically separate scalar and vector processors. Advantages of inter-processor communication via an L3 cache are too compelling to be ignored. With the new process nodes (32 nm and smaller), the construction of these ultra-complex machines is economically feasible,” explained Mr. Peddie.