Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1642

Intel’s Centrino brand has developed extremely well since its introduction less than two years ago.  You could go as far as to say that Centrino has been Intel’s quickest zero-to-success brand that we’ve ever seen in the history of the company.  A very large part of the success is due to the strong technology behind Centrino

AMD doesn’t have the resources of Intel, that’s plain and simple.  They have done an excellent job with their K8 architecture, but for AMD to devote additional resources to developing another architecture, strictly mobile oriented, it’s just not possible at this time.  At the same time, AMD’s Athlon 64 is far more suited for mobile environments than Intel’s Pentium 4 ever was, so the need for a mobile specific architecture isn’t as great for AMD as it was for Intel.  So when AMD announced their Turion 64 “Mobile Technology” we had a feeling it would be something very similar to their desktop Athlon 64s, today AMD confirmed that.

Much like Intel’s Centrino, AMD is referring to their Turion 64 as a “Mobile Technology” and not just a microprocessor platform.  AMD has seen the success of Intel’s Centrino Mobile Technology and is hoping to capitalize on some of that success.  Unlike Centrino however, Turion 64 doesn’t rely on AMD-supplied chips to receive the branding.  AMD will provide the Turion 64 processors, but chipsets can be provided by a number of vendors as can the LAN and wireless controllers.  AMD is far less restricting on the components that make up Turion 64 enabled notebooks, which means that they will inevitably be cheaper than Centrino platforms, but it also means that they may not be as power efficient as Centrino platforms - it’s a tradeoff that AMD honestly had to make, as they are far from being in Intel’s position. 

The Turion 64 processor is basically a 90nm mobile Athlon 64, so all of the architectural features of the Athlon 64 make their way to the Turion 64.  One advantage that the Turion 64 has is that with an on-die memory controller, AMD can potentially offer lower memory controller power consumption than Intel. 

The Turion 64 is based on the latest revision E4 of the K8 core, meaning that it supports SSE3 instructions as well as lower power states.  The Turion 64 line also supports AMD’s PowerNow technology (known as Cool’N’Quiet on the desktop), which allows for clock speed (and voltage) modulation between 1.0GHz and the processor’s maximum frequency based on load. 

The Turion 64 will be available in both 1MB L2 and 512KB L2 cache models, but both models will only support a 64-bit (single channel) DDR400 memory controller.  The first Turion 64s will be available in speeds ranging from 1.6GHz up to 2.0GHz.

With the Turion 64 AMD is introducing a new model numbering system to help differentiate various Turion CPUs from one another (and to separate the Turion 64 line from the Athlon 64 line):

As the chart above shows, currently AMD has two Turion lines - a 35W TDP and a 25W TDP line (note that Intel’s Pentium M 755 has a 22W TDP but they are measured differently from AMD).  The second letter in the model number indicates the level of power consumption of the processor, with “higher” letters denoting lower power consumption (e.g. MT-34 has lower power consumption than the ML-34).  AMD is clearly doing a bit of chip binning, with chips capable of running at lower voltages (and thus lower power) being set aside for the Turion 64 line.  This isn’t much of a surprise as they do a similar thing on the server side to create their low power Opteron HE and EE chips (50W and 30W respectively). 

The two digits, as usual, indicate clock speed/cache size and other performance impacting features. 

Performance, Availability and Final Words

Despite the fact that the Turion 64 line was just announced, it turns out that we actually did a Pentium M vs. Turion 64 performance comparison about a year ago.  When Intel launched the Dothan Pentium M core, we compared it to the Socket-754 Athlon 64 2800+ (1.8GHz) - which is very similar to the Turion 64 ML-32 (1.8GHz/512KB).  While the performance comparison isn't identical to a Turion 64 notebook, it should give you an idea of how competitive the Turion 64 will be performance-wise, with the Pentium M.

As you can see, AMD should have no problem remaining performance competitive with the Pentium M, but there are obviously many other factors that aren't depicted in the article mentioned above.  Mainly we have no idea how the Turion 64 will fare in a power consumption comparison, or how competitive it is from a form factor standpoint.  AMD has been aiming at the thin-and-light market from the start with Turion 64, but there's no guarantee that the Turion 64 can get into as thin and as light notebooks as Centrino.  AMD has always been one step behind Intel when it came to chip packaging, which carries a lot of weight in form factor discussions. 

AMD lists Turion 64 chip availability as immediately with the following price structure:

"AMD Turion 64 mobile technology models ML-37, ML-34, ML-32, ML-30, MT-34, MT-32, and MT-30 are priced at $354, $263, $220, $184, $268, $225 and $189 respectively, in 1,000-unit quantities."

Acer and Fujitsu will have Turion 64 notebooks available by the end of the month.  AMD also announced that: "ASUS, Averatec, BenQ, MSI and Packard Bell are among the  leading, global computer manufacturers who have indicated they will support AMD Turion 64 mobile technology."  So it sounds like we will see a few others with Turion 64 platforms, but still a few short of a complete list of partners.

With the Turion 64, AMD is doing more of a marketing repackaging of their Athlon 64 than anything else.  While it's going to be tough to best Intel's Centrino in overall packaging, the Turion 64 may just be close enough for AMD to be happy.  It all boils down to implementation, and it'll be tough for Turion to break into the more exotic Centrino markets but it shouldn't have a problem competing in the more mainstream priced Centrino notebooks. 

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