AMD Radeon HD 7000 Graphics
Key to the appeal of this new AMD trinity range is its graphics capabilities. Each model in the range has a slightly different configuration, unlike Intels' Sandy Bridge (Intel HD 3000) and Ivy Bridge (Intel HD 4000) chips which largely use identical configurations within each range. Confusing though this makes it, one thing should hold true, which is that we expect to see most of these AMD configurations beat both Intel Sandy and Ivy Bridge equivalents. We shall have to wait until the lower power products come to market before we can test this though. Also, whether this results in truly playable framerates in demanding games, we shall see, but at least less stressful titles should perform better.
What makes these parts potentially really exciting, though, is that they can be partnered with extra graphics chips from AMD's 7000 series mobile graphics range. If configured in the same system the two can work together, just like Crossfire/SLI in a desktop system. We haven't had a chance to test this here but figures provided by AMD show a near doubling of performance over the APU alone. Meanwhile, when the system is idle the extra GPU should consume almost no power so should have minimal impact on performance. Again, all this we've yet to test, though, and there's no guarantee we'll see genuinely thin and light laptops with this sort of power.
As to the GPU itself, it's very much similar to AMD's latest desktop graphics cards in terms of fundamental design, just with less of everything. At most it will contain 384 cores, with the lower end parts dropping to 192 cores. These will be accompanied by up to 24 texture units and 8 ROPs, making the high-end part very roughly equivalent to ¼ of an AMD Radeon HD 6970 desktop card.
HD Media Accelerator
Rounding out the key features of the new design is the HD Media Accelerator. This is a block of the chip dedicated to speeding up certain tasks like video decoding - something which is supported in all the major browsers, Windows Media Player and VLC – and encoding.
AMD is also touting its OpenCL support, which sees applications such as the above, Photoshop CS6, receive increased performance from intensive tasks being taken on by the GPU rather than the CPU.
There's also AMD's Quick Stream technology. This prioritises media-related internet traffic for smooth streaming video playback. Clearly this is largely reliant on your network connection still but if you've other apps accessing the internet, this technology will ensure they don't disrupt your viewing.
AMD A-Series APUs
The new Trinity APUs will be coming to market as the A-series, with models ranging from the top performing A10 to the A6. This is a little confusing as the previous generation chips were also called the A-series, so you'll have to check out full model numbers to differentiate – Llano used Axx-3000 style numbering, Trinity will use Axx-4000 numbering.
Within the numbering differences there are also some key feature differences. The chips will be available in two main configurations based on the type of mounting package they use: PGA or BGA. The standard set of APUs use the classic Pin Grid Array (PGA) arrangement where the chip is housed on a mounting that has hundreds of pins on its underside to connect to the motherboard. Meanwhile Ball Grid Array (BGA) uses tiny balls of metal instead of pins to make for an even smaller overall package.
Within each type of package there were also be differentiation based on the TDP of the chip, with 35W chips available for the larger PGA package and 25W and 17W for the BGA package. As you might expect, the former will find their way into larger more powerful laptops while the latter will be used in slimmer, even Ultrabook-style form factors.
Each configuration also has slightly different graphics capabilities. The full list of available versions is below.