With netbooks bound to continue grabbing headlines throughout 2009, especially given these price sensitive times, AMD has finally officially revealed its plans to compete, albeit indirectly, with Intel's super cheap Atom platform. Its answer is Yukon and a new processor, to be known as Athlon Neo, that together aim to create a new niche of "fully featured" ultra-portable, ultra-thin notebooks that don't cost the earth.
And AMD has teamed up with long time partner HP to launch the first Yukon powered notebook: the Pavilion dv2. This and other Yukon based notebooks will be priced between $699 and $899 and though UK pricing hasn't been discussed, somewhere between £450 and £650 (our guesswork, not AMD's) seems feasible. A 12.1in machine the dv2, unlike netbooks, will boast a regular 1,280 x 800 resolution display - validating AMD's 'notebook not netbook' pitch.
Aside from this precious little is known about the dv2, all we have to go on is a less than revealing screenshot from an AMD presentation, but this is bound to change when CES 2009 begins for real. One burning question, in our minds at least, is what operating system it'll use. Given this isn't a netbook Microsoft is unlikely to license XP, so the choice looks set to be either Vista or some variety of Linux - we'll bet on (and prefer) the latter.
As for the Yukon platform itself, it is based on the old M690 chipset, while the Athlon Neo is a 1.6GHz single-core unit with 512KB of L2 Cache. It will, based on performance testing conducted by AMD itself, deliver performance that should comfortably best an Intel Atom, but fall behind the more expensive low voltage Intel equivalent. As a consequence AMD believes Yukon and the Athlon Neo will deliver excellent price versus performance. Vitally, the processor is soldered directly onto the motherboard, enabling slimmer and more efficient notebook designs.
Yukon based notebooks can also be paired with Mobility Radeon HD 3450 discrete graphics. This makes 1080p Blu-ray playback possible thanks to ATI's Avivo HD video processing, as well as HDMI output. Likewise, the integrated option, the Radeon X1250, should offer a good deal more than Intel's integrated graphics, though not enough to process HD video.
AMD quotes battery life, based we assume on the dv2, of three and a half to four hours - we'll be reserving judgement on this claim until we get our hands on one to test. With a 15W CPU TDP and a total 27W TDP for the whole platform things sound pretty good, but pricing is bound to be a key issue. Here's hoping HP gets it right and we can expect to find out around April this year.