If you're wondering how it is that Intel can afford to release a new processor family which has changed so little from the last, the answer is simple: they've very little competition, particularly in the desktop space.
AMD's latest technology, code-named Bulldozer, has proved a monumental disappointment in many different ways. Sure, it has 8 cores. But this makes Bulldozer ridiculously large (2 billion transistors, more than double its competition). A power hog. And performance is dire, with single-threaded comparisons showing Bulldozer delivering less speed than an old Phenom II core (and multi-threading isn't that great, either).
So is that the end of the story? Not quite. Intel rules when it comes to conventional desktops, that's true, but when it comes to the mobile world (or small-form-factor systems such as all-in-one computers) it's a slightly different story.
The possible breakthrough comes in the shape of AMD's second-generation A-Series processors (formerly known as Trinity). These come with new Piledriver cores (an evolution of Bulldozer), faster integrated graphics, improved power management and so extended battery life.
And the end results? It's early days, but our first benchmarks produced some good news, with the new technology easily outperforming AMD's older mobile technology on raw CPU power, and getting close enough to the Intel equivalent that you probably won't be able to tell the difference.
But the key selling point here is the integrated graphics, which we found delivered speeds something close to twice what you'd expect from Intel's new HD 4000 technology (as found in Ivy Bridge CPUs). This still isn't fast enough for dedicated gaming, but does at last mean a laptop will be able to play modern games at reasonable resolutions and detail settings, and that's a big step forward.
AMD could be better if there was more support for Linux users. Most Open Source Linux distros, like Ubuntu and Fedora, do not include support for AMD/ATI proprietary graphics drivers. Why not at least make the older ATI drivers Open Source? That way they could be included with new Linux distros. On the other hand, Intel graphics work no hassle with most Linux distros out of the box.