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AMD A Series 'Trinity' processors: what you need to know

AMD has unveiled its A Series 'Trinity' processors that aim to offer improved graphics performance with lower power use.

Processor manufacturer AMD has shown off its latest set of chips that will soon be finding their way into all manner of laptops. The A Series chips -- or Trinity, as they like to be known -- are designed to offer better built-in graphics performance while keeping power usage low.

If that sounds like a familiar concept, it's because it's basically the same objective Intel has for its new line of recently announced Ivy Bridge processors. AMD's Trinity will be going head-to-head with Intel's Ivy Bridge to see which can deliver the best performance while not eating through so much power as to drain your laptop battery in five minutes flat.

Rather than flog the A Series as CPUs, AMD reckons the new chips are APUs, or accelerated processing units. How that differs from any other processor is that the A Series makes better use of the built-in graphics processing capabilities -- but for general computing, rather than just games.

AMD claims that the A Series -- the A4, A6, A8 and A10 -- are up to 50 per cent more efficient at processing graphics than the previous range of chips, and that it has ensured all that extra power is put to good use. To achieve this, AMD has been working with external companies to make programs such as Adobe Photoshop CS6, Firefox, Chrome and VLC Media Player take full advantage of the graphics portion of the chip.

Editing your snaps in Photoshop, for example, promises to be a much smoother experience, with reduced rendering times even for high-resolution pictures. AMD demonstrated this feature at a showcase event and it revealed apparent benefits, although I want to wait and see exactly what advantages it brings to users outside of such controlled environments. Not all software will initially be able to take advantage of this fine-tuning, but AMD has quite a lengthy list of companies it's working with already.

The Trinity series also claims to make media functions that bit more accomplished. The graphics boost, together with the built-in software, promises to make videos richer and sharper, as well as offering a stabilisation effect when playing back shaky home movies. I was shown another example of this, and again it looked pretty good, but whether it works as well in a normal home environment remains to be seen -- by us perhaps, in one of our environment-rich normal homes.

The software should also make streaming video a notch smarter by prioritising your Internet's bandwidth for video streams. In theory, that's a nice idea -- it means those long buffering times when watching the latest episode of Top Gear on BBC iPlayer should be reduced. Time will tell if this is feature is as effective and beneficial as promised.

Of course, the graphical boost shouldn't just be limited to video applications -- I'd also hope to be able to run a few of the older, less demanding games titles such as Half-Life 2 on my train journey. You can't really expect much more than that out of the built-in graphics -- if you plan on tearing into Battlefield 3 in Ultra settings, you'll still undoubtedly need a laptop with a dedicated graphics card stuffed inside.

The new processors do promise to be considerably more power efficient than their predecessors. AMD claims the chips have the "leading performance per watt", hopefully resulting in better battery performance for ultrabooks, which all aim to run for hours without so much as sniffing a plug socket. We haven't seen any true ultrabooks bearing the AMD badge (due to the fact that 'Ultrabook' is an Intel-specific term) but we'll certainly be seeing plenty of super-skinny AMD machines on the scene soon.

The A Series range will be available to buy as stand-alone components from 3 June so keep your eyes peeled around that date to see exactly what the different computer manufacturers will do with them.

In the meantime, make sure to keep it CNET UK for all the latest news.