How tight is this Fusion?

Last week, a select handful of tech reporters were given some quality time with new Fusion-flavored chips from Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD). Today, the embargo on their benchmark results expired. If early results are any indication, AMD has a legit alternative to the Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) Atom line on its hands.

Benchmark tests by respected enthusiast sites including AnandTech and Tech Report show that the Brazos line of mobile processors often beats the Atom senseless, particularly in graphics-intensive applications like games and high-definition video handling. The only Atom systems putting up a fight under those conditions have separate graphics solutions from either AMD or NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA). Paired up with excellent power efficiency and a supposedly entry-level pricing strategy, Intel could have a hard time beating AMD out of the next wave of netbooks and low-end laptops.

Some might say these chips even look tasty for tablet computers. Intel is a member of the Android steering committee, the Open Handset Alliance. Partly thanks to Intel's direct involvement, the software is supposedly hardware-agnostic enough to run on Atom chips (and thus AMD chips also), or for that matter on the MIPS Technologies (Nasdaq: MIPS) platform -- ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH) doesn't get to have all the Android fun -- and AMD might have to credit Intel for an assist here.

The challenge has been to find an Intel-compatible chip running cool and battery-friendly enough to make sense in these smaller gadgets without strapping them to a fully charged car battery first. None of the reviewers so far had a chance to test battery longevity, so the jury is still out -- but the ratio of performance to power consumption they found seems promising from a theoretical point of view.

Desktops are old hat these days and the server market is a whole 'nother beast. Mobility and notebooks are where the action is now, and AMD could have a real winner here. The whole Fusion idea always sounded nice on paper, but it's even better to see the sentiment backed up by some cold, hard numbers.

Is this the beginning of a new era in the microprocessor space, where AMD once again challenges Intel in the hottest submarkets available? I'd say yes, but then I've seen this on the horizon for years now. The comments box is waiting for your perspective below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. NVIDIA is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.