Apple Had Late Stage Prototypes of an AMD Fusion Based MacBook Air

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SemiAccurate claims that Apple had late stage AMD Llano based MacBook Air prototypes last spring and had been "on the verge of production".
If you are wondering why the Air wasn't really revamped much this last time, it is because you are looking at plan B. Plan A was basically a low power Llano in an Air shell, and that would have been a really tasty machine.
This AMD based design would reportedly have had much more graphics (GPU) power, and lose only a little CPU power as compared to what was ultimately released. The "Llano" is part of the AMD Fusion platform which offers a combined CPU/GPU hybrid system:
Forget about the CPU (Central Processing Unit). Chipmaker AMD would like you to think instead about what it calls the APU, its Accelerated Processing Unit. The combo product uses a single die to contain, according to AMD, "a multicore CPU, a powerful DirectX 11-capable discrete-level graphics and parallel processing engine, a dedicated high-definition video acceleration block, and a high-speed bus that speeds data across the differing types of processor cores within the design."
Graphics (GPU) performance has been a stumbling block for Apple in pushing its laptop designs further. The MacBook Air was stuck on previous generation Intel chips for an extra revision due to the relatively poor performance of Intel's integrated GPUs. Apple finally upgraded the MacBook Air to Intel's Sandy Bridge processors in July.

Earlier this year, Apple had reportedly threatened Intel that they would abandon Intel's chips if the company was unable to improve their power consumption profile. AMD would be the logical alternative to Intel, and it makes sense that Apple would have fully explored its options at that time.

According to SemiAccurate, one reason Apple chose not to adopt AMD's solution was AMD's inability to supply enough of the required parts to Apple. SemiAccurate had previously claimed that Apple was also looking into moving from Intel processors to ARM processors in the future.

Article Link: Apple Had Late Stage Prototypes of an AMD Fusion Based MacBook Air
 

Eidorian

macrumors Penryn
Mar 23, 2005
29,085
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Indianapolis
I love AMD and all but Llano starts at 35W with ho-hum clock speeds and a questionable Turbo Core at best. Llano might have a high TDP but the power consumption is remarkably low compared to AMD's old Phenom/Athlon mobile lineup and even to Sandy Bridge. Binning out an even lower clocked version would barely place it past Core 2 Duo in performance if at all. It would work but seriously not at the prices Apple charges.

Fusion parts are scarce as hell today for every other OEM. Maybe when Trinity shows up but tinkering with Llano is not out of the question.

Charlie is getting killer page hits for this one.
 
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wordoflife

macrumors 604
Jul 6, 2009
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Personally I'm an Intel fan, but I wouldn't mind some increased graphic performance.
 

iRCL

macrumors 6502
Nov 2, 2011
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SemiAccurate, more like completely not accurate. Are they just going to throw out every possible combination of Apple moving to non-Intel-mobile series chips? ARM, AMD Fusion.. maybe next it can be Atmel! Keep throwing those darts..
 

roaminggnome

macrumors newbie
Jun 1, 2009
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Perhaps they did, but I am not surprised they didn't move forward. Thunderbolt is part of Apple's product strategy. AMD≠no thunderbolt. I'm not sure that Intel is licensing the technology to other vendors.
 

ECUpirate44

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Mar 22, 2010
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Perhaps they did, but I am not surprised they didn't move forward. Thunderbolt is part of Apple's product strategy. AMD≠no thunderbolt. I'm not sure that Intel is licensing the technology to other vendors.
Exactly what I was thinking.
 

J hit&runner

macrumors newbie
Jun 1, 2010
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im an intel fan, and the graphical performance doesn't really bother me.

HOWEVER, in the near future ( 5 years) i would love to have a ultra portable Macbook that does everything, day to day applications and gaming. having a separate rig for gaming is just a limit of technology, hope apple will break it someday.
 

bwillwall

macrumors 6502a
Dec 24, 2009
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Ivy bridge

I think Apple can see that Intel is still the best option. Ivy bridge, thunderbolt, nuff said.
 

cowcaster88

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ARM or AMD, really they just moved to Imtel considering how long they were on PowerPC.
 

Eidorian

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Mar 23, 2005
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Perhaps they did, but I am not surprised they didn't move forward. Thunderbolt is part of Apple's product strategy. AMD≠no thunderbolt. I'm not sure that Intel is licensing the technology to other vendors.
The Hudson FCH supports USB 3.0 on die but that would leave the Air as the only Apple product without ThunderBolt. I still consider ThunderBolt to be dead on arrival though.
 

snebes

macrumors 6502a
Apr 20, 2008
786
490
Don't get too excited about this. A DirectX 11 optimized core doesn't necessarily translate to a great openGL/core Image based machine. I, personally, am glad that Apple stuck with the low-power i3 in the Air. Apple really just needs to push Intel into providing a better graphic solution in the low power sector, even with the benefit of helping out our Windows and *nix-laptop friends.
 

zap2

macrumors 604
Mar 8, 2005
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I haven't seen the benchmark comparisons, but from my understanding is Intel's Core i5 and i7 chips are much faster, even if the GPUs aren't as fast as Intel's.

Admittedly, Apple picked GPU over CPU by keeping Core 2 in their machines when the rest of the market went to Intel's first generation Core iX CPUs for the sake of GPU power, but something within me thinks Apple is better off going for the CPU at least from marketing perspective.

I love my last generation MacBook Air, but I'd trade up for a better CPU at the price of my GPU in a minute(although the Air is pretty damn fast as is thanks to the SSD)

If Apple could do both, which admittedly is very unApple, but they could likely offer a 700 or 800 dollars entry cost, but if they didn't have Intel's CPUs they Air line wouldn't be the powerhouses that they are. To me, the extra CPU power is worth the extra cost, but I see why Apple would like to offer a cheaper Air.

Although perhaps their benchmarks are closer then my understanding leads me to believe. Certainly, I'd be interested if anyone has a good comparison. I do like the idea of Apple looking into AMD solutions for areas that Intel has fallen behind in(although again, not sure if this case here)

I'd love a Mac that's perhaps twice the size of the Mac mini but has a better graphic cards and a decent AMD CPU.
 

jclardy

macrumors 68040
Oct 6, 2008
3,444
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"If you are wondering why the Air wasn't really revamped much this last time..."

I wasn't really wondering...the latest redesign was less than a year old when the upgrade came. CPU performance the same level as MBP's from a few months before, same respectable battery life, a high speed port, and a backlit keyboard. Pretty decent for the "spec bump" upgrade year.

AMD processors but I would rather have the extra CPU performance then a boost in graphics. Even with Llano the graphics would still be terrible for anything graphics intensive.
 

Sackvillenb

macrumors 6502a
Mar 1, 2011
573
2
Canada! \m/
well... that was a very interesting course of action, even though it didn't materialize... I like the concept of a fused cpu/gpu though, where the gpu is actually half decent...!
 

bwillwall

macrumors 6502a
Dec 24, 2009
760
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I believe Apple will eventually be using Apple A-series processors in all their devices, I mean not any time soon but as the mac and iOS devices merge over time. Steve Jobs even said people will all be using phones and tablets and stuff one day in the future and only major users will use computers. (He compared computers to trucks in the future)
 

marcusj0015

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Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

ARM or AMD, really they just moved to Imtel considering how long they were on PowerPC.
Intel licenses AMD64 from AMD AKA the Intel 64 you see in x64 mode in Lion, SL, leopard.

it wouldn't be a different processor architecture.
 

tmroper

macrumors regular
Dec 4, 2008
121
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Palo Alto
[url=http://cdn.macrumors.com/im/macrumorsthreadlogodarkd.png]Image[/url]


[url=http://cdn.macrumors.com/article-new/2011/11/AMD_Fusion-150x149.jpg]Image


...one reason Apple chose not to adopt AMD's solution was AMD's inability to supply enough of the required parts to Apple.
Architecture and design are all just conversation if they can't be produced in sufficient volume and quality. There are plenty of great alternative designs; there aren't plenty of great alternative manufactures.
 

wikus

macrumors 68000
Jun 1, 2011
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Graphics (GPU) performance has been a stumbling block for Apple
Massive understatement.

Apple doesnt give a crap about GPU. Just look at what they offer in their desktops. Then look at their history of offering their consumers absolute garbage; last gen GPUs with next year GPU prices.

Disgusting.
 

canucksfan88

macrumors 6502a
Oct 28, 2007
559
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i have always been an intel fan. no justification why..but i have always viewed AMD as being inferior.
 

wordoflife

macrumors 604
Jul 6, 2009
7,563
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Massive understatement.

Apple doesnt give a crap about GPU. Just look at what they offer in their desktops. Then look at their history of offering their consumers absolute garbage; last gen GPUs with next year GPU prices.

Disgusting.
The iMacs aren't really geared towards graphical/gaming use. It's more of an all in one machine in a compact package.
 

Pentad

macrumors 6502a
Nov 26, 2003
985
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Indiana
I'm not sure people realize what Apple really wants and how it will hurt them in the end. I have no doubts that Steve, Tim, and the other VPs have dreamt of a world where all of Apple's products run ARM/Apple based CPUs.

It makes great sense, think about it:

-One architecture to compile for
-You can optimize the heck out of it
-Apple has much more control of a major component

Apple would benefit immensely from this.

Cons (for many users)
Loosing Intel also means losing Windows compatibility.

The main reason I switched back to Apple was they switched to Intel. This opened a whole new world of Windows software that could run very well with an Intel based CPU.

Moving to ARM would cause many problems. Sure, you could still do some sort of Rosetta type of solution but that would cause some big performance hits.

Now, you are thinking that Windows 8 is supposed to run under ARM but lets be real here. Windows used to run on many different CPUs but all software was compiled for one: Intel. In the end, the other CPUs just didn't matter.

I think running Windows 8 on an ARM CPU is going to fall. Oh sure, it will run but how many big name apps are going to get ported to ARM really?

I'm not sure MS is ready to port Office, Visual Studio, Server plus all the tools to ARM. Do you think the major game vendors are going to cross compile for Intel and ARM under Windows 8?

There was a poll about what people wanted in Tablets and most said they wanted Windows. It is not because they want Windows but the world of software that runs under Windows. Will this apps run well in a table environment? Who knows? But that isn't the point is it?


In the end, Apple would love to run their iOS and Mac OS under one CPU.

I have nothing against AMD and would love Apple to tap them as a resource.

-P
 
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Rodimus Prime

macrumors G4
Oct 9, 2006
10,136
4
As much as I like AMD for their desktop stuff. I have never known them to make good mobile chips. Even during their hey day with the Athon lines their mobile chips sucked.

Now if they finally got that together I say go for it.
 
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