Over the years, Intel and AMD have been in quite a battle to bring out the best processors. Eventually a point came where you didn't hear all too much about what AMD was up to, while Intel was rolling out all of its latest processors.
However, AMD's "quiet time" was very well used, as they are now releasing their newest APUs, (Accelerated Processing Unit), to reignite the battle with Intel. Along with AMD's current regular CPU offerings and its plans for the future, there's more pressure on Intel than you might think.
AMD Processor vs Intel – Integrated Graphics
Before we talk about this, we have to first understand the difference between the common CPUs and the new APUs. An APU is simply a combination of a CPU and a GPU onto a single chip that is roughly the same size as any other CPU. The APU also includes a few more controllers, and therefore the "Northbridge" chip on a motherboard is no longer necessary.
In case you didn't know why AMD bought ATI back in 2006, the main reason was to have access to its graphics technologies in order to create these "Fusion" APUs. Of course they will continue selling dedicated GPUs, but the main reason for the buy was to integrate the great graphics chips into their CPUs, and not to simply get into the graphics market (although that is a secondary effect).
In case you need any more clarification on APUs, you can check out this nifty article.
AMD's APUs are quite the invention. Along with great, market-appropriate processing cores (power-efficient for mobile devices, and speedy for desktops and higher-end notebooks), the addition of some very nice Radeon cores allows the APU to simply "do it all". This is actually an advantage over Intel, who are also making CPUs with integrated graphics. Their new Sandy Bridge processors (2nd Generation Core processors), which Intel still calls CPUs and not APUs, include Intel HD Graphics. However, Intel's graphics offerings have never been decent in my opinion, and won't be able to play any of the latest games.
An example is Intel's Atom processors against AMD's C-series processors. If we take the single core variants of both, AMD's offering can still play 1080p HD video while Intel's Atom processor can't. What's even more amazing is that the AMD processor is clocked lower and doesn't use HyperThreading, yet it is still able to pull it off well. Power consumption is roughly the same for both chips.
Speaking of power consumption, that's my second reason! Most of AMD's CPUs are more power efficient than Intel's. This is especially true for the new APUs, where power efficiency is a high priority. Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors have been better in that category, but we can't say the same thing for the previous offerings. Power efficiency will continue to be a high priority in future AMD products.
AMD has some very competitive pricing on their products. Generally speaking, AMD has a reputation for introducing processors that have greater performance than similarly priced Intel processors. For everything I have seen, this has always been true.
For example, AMD's flagship Phenom II X6 1100T is around $70 less than Intel's Core i5 2500K, which doesn't really give any noticeable performance increases over the 1100T. AMD has always made quality chips with great performance for a more affordable price.
AMD isn't just about processors. They're also involved in the graphics card industry (obviously), motherboard chipsets, and very recently, system memory. AMD has announced the Radeon-branded system memory only a couple of days ago. There aren't many variations in the different memory modules that are planned to be offered, but I believe that the selection will expand over time. The advertised system memory is crafted to work well with AMD processors, according to the company.
Thanks to AMD's affordable CPUs and new APUs, the company already has quite an array of products that are apparently selling very well. AMD is also rolling out their new "Bulldozer" cores in Q3 of 2011, with the "FX" brand. These new cores are supposed to have a completely new architecture design, built from the ground up. AMD claims that their performance-per-watt ratio has dramatically been increased, which can only be good news. These new FX processors will appear as quad-core, six-core, and eight-core variants.
The new and future processors that AMD is offering are helping the company gain some momentum, which could turn ugly for Intel over time. I believe that if there ever comes a point where AMD has enough momentum to design a chip that is more powerful than anything Intel has, and yet still at an affordable price (and not the $999+ that Intel is asking), then that is the time when AMD could possibly get a much, much larger market share. We're not at that point yet, but AMD sure has its plans set in motion, and they look good right now.