AMD’s Trinity Removes Historical Battery Life Objections

By Patrick Moorhead - May 29, 2012
AMD has been long perceived as providing less notebook PC battery life than its primary competitor, Intel. While AMD did score wellclip_image001in specific usage models, Intel performed a better, particularly in modes where the system was idle or in sleep mode. Most of the de-facto battery life benchmarks heavily weighted idle times when the system wasn’t doing anything, so Intel typically came out on top with the benchmarks. With Trinity, AMD has finally remove this objection by significantly improving battery life in most usage models. By removing this objection, AMD is in a much better position to drive significantly more business than its predecessor, Llano. Battery life for notebooks has always rated as a key purchase criteria for notebooks, right up there with screen size, price, weight and brand. It is more important for business users than consumers, which makes perfect sense given how much time is spent away from a power socket. Consumers are valuing increased battery life more and more as they are taking their laptops to different rooms in the house. Intel helped initiate and drive the technologies for low power notebooks with its Centrino-branded processors years back and has recently put the accelerator down with their Ultrabook initiative and Ivy/Sandy Bridge processors. Battery life isn’t just a spec for geeks. It is merchandised now more than ever by OEMs, ODMs, and retailers at the point of review, influence and most importantly, point of sale. Significantly improved battery life isn’t just an AMD marketing talking point; it’s a reality and is proven out by multiple product reviewers over the last few weeks. AnandTech summarized it succinctly when he wrote, “It’s worth pointing out that the concerns about AMD’s battery life from a few years ago are now clearly put to rest. At least at the TDPs we’ve tested, AMD is easily competitive with Intel on battery life.“ The other product reviewers are echoing the same sentiment with different tests which give me confidence that it’s reality, not hype. One of the more interesting things about the AMD Trinity review units is that they were configured with the highest end, quad core, 35 watt processor. 17 watt Trinity parts are on the way and you should expect to see systems on retail shelf in June. PC OEMs are seeing the battery life improvements and are merchandising it, too. HP recently launched their HP ENVY Sleekbook line and they merchandised AMD and Intel notebooks at the same “up to 9 hours” battery life specification. This is the first time in a long time I have seen this and is an indicator that OEMs experienced the same battery life characteristics as the reviewers. As interesting is that AMD accomplished this with the same 32nm SOI process technology as Llano at Globalfoundries. This is a clear indicator that the design is a significant improvement versus a process or node change. AMD has executed finer grain power management, meaning they have targeted more areas to throttle back power without sacrificing performance. Trinity’s battery life improvements is nothing but goodness for AMD as they have historically limited their level of business and profitability by not scoring as well on battery life benchmarks. Good benchmark scores doesn’t guarantee business but are a good start and AMD has the design wins to deliver significant business over Llano. Design wins also don’t guarantee business as many designs either don’t make it to market or are limited geographically. AMD and their ecosystem will need to successfully execute on getting this message out and having it stick in the minds of the influencer and consumer. This won’t be an easy task given AMD’s OPEX reductions and Intel’s $300M investment in Ultrabooks that includes a significant marketing investment. The good news for AMD is just how much battery life figures are merchandised in the ecosystem today. With Trinity, AMD has removed the battery life objection from ODMs, OEMs, and the channel, a huge forward step to increase their notebook business in 2012.
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.