AMD’s Atom-Rival Neo CPU Isn’t Really For Netbooks

So AMD’s nose-to-nose battle with Intel in every corner of the CPU marketspace really isn’t going to happen for netbook CPUs. News about AMD’s low-power Neo CPU has arrived and it’s not a direct rival to Intel’s suite of Atom processors, and their successors.

The Athlon Neo chips will instead be based on AMD’s existing 65nm fab tech, similar to the previously-leaked Yukon architecture, but they’re smaller and will come combined with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3410 graphics. This, says AMD, makes them more powerful than Intel’s 45nm-tech Atoms, and allows for casual-game-level 3D graphics and smooth 1080p video playback–something that Atom-powered netbooks don’t do very well.

But why would you want to? 1080p on a tiny netbook screen doesn’t really add up. And when you consider the Neo package will draw 35W, more than a typical netbook chipset does, and you think about the battery drain associated with that it makes even less sense.

AMD says the reasons for this are that the Neos will go into “ultrathin notebooks” instead. And that basically means that AMD sees a market between small, low-performance but cheap netbooks and the high-performance ultra-portable notebooks that cost way more.

This decision ratifies Apple’s innovation of the MacBook Air, with follow-ons like Dell’s Adamo, and suggests that AMD thinks we’ll be seeing many more skinny but capable notebooks pretty soon. The chip maker’s not heralding a new class of machine then: just a cheaper interim.