2011 MacBook Air Was Nearly Powered by AMD Chip

Last year, Apple considered using the Advanced Micro Devices “Llano” chip in their MacBook Air notebook computers. Designed to have built-in graphics processing capabilities, similar to the Intel Ivy Bridge processor, the chip just wasn’t ready for a mid-2011 launch.

AMD & MacBook Air

According to Forbes.com, and several former employees apparently, AMD was working hard to get a “fusion” processor together - one that combines both a central processor and a graphics processor on the same chip. This chip was nicknamed “Llano” and was being targeted for inclusion in the mid-2011 refresh of the MacBook Air line.

While prototypes were developed and things looked good on paper, the performance just wasn’t there. AMD was having trouble delivering on time too, according to the report. Part of the problem was that were several changes going on at AMD at the time. The company was shifting manufacturing processes and engineering the new fusion design. In the end, the Llano processor didn’t make the grade in time.

AMD did succeed in developing a different fusion chip - the Brazos. That chip has been a popular component in many non-Macintosh netbook computers. A former employee put it this way, “If Brazos has been killed, AMD wouldn’t be in business.” Apparently this chip was offered to Apple for inclusion in the Apple TV, but Apple wasn’t interested.

Apple and AMD have a long history of working together and Apple has hired many former AMD employees, including former AMD CTO Bob Derbin. AMD Radeon graphics processors currently come standard on many Apple models.