AMD’s Answer to Ultrabooks: Make ‘Em Cheap

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Techland

The Intel-led legion of thin, light and beautiful computers may look like the future of laptops, but at the moment, their prices could give you a heart attack. Many of the ones on display at CES float around $1,000, and some are closer to $1,500.

Because of this, AMD sees an opportunity to attack its rival chip maker, Intel, which created the Ultrabook concept. AMD wants to make thin and light laptops too, but they’ll be cheaper–albeit a little thicker and heavier–and AMD hopes they’ll have better performance as well.

(MORE: Intel’s Big Double Push for 2012: Ultrabooks and Smartphones)

At AMD’s meeting room, Leslie Sobon, the company’s vice president of global product and outbound marketing, showed me a prototype by Compal–the Taiwanese company that manufactures laptops for many major brands–but wouldn’t let me take pictures of it. The laptop was a respectable 0.71 inches thick. And although it was definitely heavier than many of the Ultrabooks I’ve played with at the show, the kicker is the price: AMD is targeting $500 for laptops like this once device makers start producing them.

That’s a huge difference compared to the $1,000-and-up Ultrabooks that have dominated the show floor at CES. Samsung’s gorgeous Series 9 Ultrabook, for instance, will be priced at $1,399 and up. HP’s Spectre, also stunning with its glass-clad lid and palm rest, is $1,399. There’s definitely an opening for cheaper Ultrabook alternatives.

AMD already has a laptop that comes close to the prototype I saw. It’s an Asus notebook (pictured) selling for $450 when it arrives in the United States later this year. But it’s thicker and heavier than the next wave of laptops AMD plans to power, and it’s not as capable. The next generation, which should arrive around mid-year, will be able to handle multi-monitor output, even with power-intensive tasks such as gaming and video happening at the same time.

Of course, AMD won’t be calling these laptops “Ultrabooks”–the name is strictly an Intel thing–and it’s not planning a huge marketing push like Intel is. But low prices are always a strong lure, and AMD could gain some ground on its rival by powering ultraportable PCs that crack the $500 barrier.

(Photos: Day Two of the Consumer Electronics Show)

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