Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) has had its Fusion architecture coming for a very long time. Not content to sit on its hands, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) pushed improved graphics powers into next year's Sandy Bridge processors and may beat AMD to the punch with a fully integrated processor-and-graphics solution. Early previews show Sandy Bridge still being too puny to replace high-end graphics products from AMD and NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA), but strong enough to make an impact on the low end of the market, where laptops and netbooks frolic.

These findings prompted AMD to reach out to me with a rebuttal of sorts. In AMD's eyes, the tests run by hardware enthusiast site Anandtech weren't entirely fair. In AMD's words:

The tests were run at netbook-level resolution (1024 x 768 or less than 1 megapixel of resolution) and the lowest graphical settings possible. Running the tests in this manner may have utilized only the L3 cache, which would greatly impact performance results, but may not typical [sic] of how actual gameplay would proceed. Competitive tests against in-market AMD GPUs were run using AMD drivers from late 2009; since then, AMD has updated its graphics drivers at least eight times, with each update bringing increased performance.

So the question should be asked, do you think these tests reflect real-world gameplay? We don't think so.

This raises a number of fair points: Hardware reviews are always a moving target, and Sandy Bridge may not live up to the early hype when it finally hits store shelves as part of new systems from system builders like Lenovo, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ). Both AMD and Intel will have updated their software several times over by then, and the nearest AMD equivalent to the Sandy Bridge price point might not even be available yet.

That being said, Sandy Bridge is an unequivocal improvement over Intel's sorry slate of graphics solutions today and will push both AMD and NVIDIA to new heights just to stay ahead. Many of the current shortcomings of Intel's new chip such as a lack of support for the latest graphics technology standards by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) should eventually be ironed out.

Fusion will probably still blow the socks off of Sandy Bridge and its brethren, but at least Intel is keeping the game interesting. Would you buy a Sandy Bridge-based computer if it could save you $50 without losing much gaming performance? Intel is betting that a lot of people will. Discuss where you stand in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund has no time for silly games and holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. NVIDIA is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Intel and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days

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