After the ATI acquisition AMD announced it would be creating a new category of microprocessors that featured integrated ATI GPUs. AMD called these hybrid CPU/GPUs Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) and it branded the entire APU strategy: Fusion.

The first Fusion project we heard about was Llano for mainstream notebooks/desktops. Llano will integrate a 32nm derivative of the current Phenom II architecture with a relatively capable DirectX 11 AMD GPU. Llano isn't due out until sometime in 2011 so details are still light. However, AMD just released some details on its lower end Fusion APUs that will begin shipping in Q4 2010 (OEM system availability in Q1 2011).

Bobcat is the CPU core. Last month we went in depth on its architecture. In short, Bobcat is an out-of-order alternative to Intel's Atom that has the potential to offer significantly higher performance. But since we're talking about APUs, Bobcat is only a part of the equation.

AMD will be shipping two Bobcat based APUs in Q4: Ontario and Zacate. Both APUs implement two Bobcat cores and a DX11 AMD GPU with an undisclosed number of cores. Ontario is aimed at netbooks/nettops while Zacate can be used in ultra thins and value notebooks/desktops.

Today at IFA in Berlin AMD announced the Ontario and Zacate TDPs as well as shared a photo of a low power AMD Fusion APU (possibly Ontario?). The Ontario APU is rated at 9W, while Zacate is rated at 18W.

Ontario's TDP is competitive. Intel's recently announced Atom N550 (dual-core Pine Trail) with on-die graphics has an 8.5W TDP, but it should be significantly slower than Ontario if AMD did its job right. 

Zacate's TDP is competitive but at 18W it's in curious company. Intel's ultra-low voltage Core i3 has an 18W TDP, but the CPU should be much faster than a pair of Bobcats. The GPU side is a question here as well, but I'm guessing AMD should at least be competitive with Arrandale graphics.

The TDPs at least give us an idea that peak power consumption should be competitive between low power Fusion APUs and Intel's alternatives. Ultimately battery life is determined by performance and average power draw. Idle power should be competitive given AMD's use of power gating on the chips but we'll have to wait and see to get the full picture.


The photo above is what AMD calls a low power Fusion APU, which I presume means Ontario. Also in the photo are two coins: a 1 Euro coin and a 2 Polish Zloty coin. The Euro is bigger than the entire APU package. With a 23.5mm diameter, I'd guess Ontario's package is at least comparable to Atom's 22mm x 22mm package size. With a similar TDP and similar package size (if not smaller), Ontario should be able to fit into anything an Atom can fit in - meaning Ontario netbooks should be just as thin and just as light as Atom netbooks. They'll just be faster.

We also have an idea of die size. The Polish Zloty's inner circle measures 12mm in diameter. A quick comparison in Photoshop indicates that the Ontario die is shorter along its side than the diameter of Zloty's inner circle. I'd estimate the die as being 10mm x 10mm, putting it at 100mm^2. Intel's Atom N550's die is 87mm^2, but a 15% increase in die area makes sense given AMD's out-of-order architecture and presumably beefier GPU. AMD typically gives you more transistors than Intel for the same price so this isn't surprising. Update: Industry and enthusiast community veteran, Hans de Vries (I remember reading his architecture posts back in the K8 and P4 days) posted an analysis of the Ontario die plot. He estimates its die at an even small 74mm^2, indicating that TSMC's 40nm process is quite dense. If these numbers hold true that would mean Ontario is not only smaller than Atom, but also much higher performing. Note the amount of die area dedicated to graphics. This is going to be very good for entry level systems.

I'm excited, we desperately need performance competition in the ultra thin/ultra portable notebook market. Now all we need is to get our hands on an Ontario platform and test it.

Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • adonn78 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Lowers prices. Plus Atom is not powerful enough for streaming HD video.
  • quiksilvr - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Actually it is now thanks to the new 3150 integrated video card. Is it good enough for games? Doubtful, and its 1080p performance really depends on the video format and bit-rate, but even if the prices are lower, it doesn't look like the watts are lower and we need bench marks first to see the performance.
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Uh, no it can't. The GMA 3150 has slightly better MPEG acceleration than the GMA 950. When Intel demonstrated the ultra-thin Canoe Lake reference platform, they mentioned that the dual core N550 allows it to play 720p.
  • wazzap123 - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    There's a good analysis over the daily circuit that covers why Ontario and Zacate are essentially the corollary to "good enough computing" -
  • xavier78 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    3150 really can't go the HD's the Broadcom accelerator chip that does that for ya ;-)
  • Kamen75 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Intel GMA 3150 graphics max out at 720p for H.264 video and 480p for flash video but not smoothly at full screen for flash and can stutter at times on H.264 video.
  • Springfield45 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I have been using my netbook for two years now, and I am starting to look for a replacement. Dual core is a must, as I cant justify an upgrade that does not bring a significant performance bump, and as small a screen as I can get with 1330x768. (The only real complaint I have with my old asus is the 600 vertical resolution.)
    Are the benchies likely to start rolling in soon?
  • mianmian - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I heard Ontario is about 1.5GHz and 2x the speed of Atom, both integer and floating point. But it is skeptical that AMD can outperform Intel this much. I do wish it is true though.
  • MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Probably 2x as fast is a best case scenario. Being a more complete CPU, it will probably just be more responsive. I'm sure it won't beat Atom in every aspect, but the superior GPU acceleration will really give it some zip in Windows 7 and HD decoding. It's what we've needed in netbooks for a while now.
  • wintermute000 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Dude forget netbook, get a used IBM X61s

    CULV Core2Duo
    12" and only marginally thicker/heavier than a netbook
    old school thinkpad build quality

    If you want to save you can go down a notch to the older X60s, I have a X60s (with CoreDuo not C2D) and it thrashes any netbook due to the 'real' CPU, despite the anemic GMA950, I don't game on it anyway and the CPU is good enough to push 720p in software. It runs Win7 quick.

    Or you can splash out and get the T variant for tablet computing.

    should be able to get it used for same price as a high end netbook (this was a 3k laptop when it came out ~3 years ago)

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now