German hardware site 3DCenter has published an intriguing series of slides, date July 2011, which reveal CPU and graphics chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.’s (AMD) “APU” plans for 2011 through 2013.
In January of this year, the situation looked bleak for AMD. Rival CPU-maker Intel Corp. (INTC) had just dropped Sandy Bridge , a brand new 32 nm architecture. AMD’s own Phenom II high-end CPU lineup was still sitting at 45 nm and despite aggressive pricing was fast becoming badly dated in peformance.
But while Intel had conquered the high-end, its low end solutions were less attractive. Sandy Bridge was relatively expensive for budget laptops and netbooks, and the Intel Atom platform was looking dated graphically, still relying on Intel GMA 31xx graphics.
AMD pounced deploying Brazos “advanced processing units” (APUs), chips that combined its Evergreen graphics cores with its new low-power Bobcat cores. The chips stacked up similar to Atom in CPU performance, but they offered superior graphics and the ability to use power-saving DDR3 memory (Atom only supported DDR2). Branded the C-Series and E-Series, the new chips were a sales hit, driving an AMD resurgence and profits.
AMD followed up with a beefier set of APUs, Llano, branded the A-Series. These chips swapped the Bobcat cores for a 32 nm die shrink of the K10/Stars architecture (dubbed Husky cores). The number of shaders in the GPU was also bumped by a factor of 2 to 5 times. Whereas Brazos primarily gunned for Atom’s market share, the new chips went head-to-head with low-end Sandy Bridge chips.
Of course Sandy Bridge was an APU of sorts too, with a surprisingly peppy on-die GPU — the HD 3000. But members of the A-Series managed to scrape a narrow win over Sandy Bridge in graphics, which helped distract from Sandy Bridge‘s superior CPU performance.
In testing by AnandTech the i5 chip handily beats AMD in CPU-centric tests, but the AMD chip pulls off an equally impressive win in gaming. And thanks to attractive pricing, AMD clearly is doing a good job getting OEMs onboard and moving product into the channel — Newegg lists 21 laptops powered by A-Series CPUs and 24 powered by E-Series or C-Series chips.
II. What’s Next: The Known
Turning to the leaked roadmap, here it is:
Fig. 1: The leaked roadmap gives us a refresher on 2012 — an a peak at AMD’s 2013 Fusion plans.
And here’s the code-name guide from the slides:
Fig. 2: AMD draws its codenames from wild cats, cities, rivers, and even Indian provinces.
It shows that AMD likely has already shipped engineering samples of its Llano refresh “Trinity”. Trinity prospect launch date is January 2012. Its chips will be branded E2s, A4s, A6s, or A8s. It will come with a graphics refresh (“London”/Northern Islands) and will swap the “Husky” cores for “Piledriver” cores — “enhanced” versions of AMD’s new 32 nm Bulldozer architecture.
Confusingly, Trinity‘s platform has yet two more code-name — “Comal” for laptops and “Virgo” for desktops — and the slides point to it being sold alongside Llano for Q1 2012, with Llano being phased out by Q2 2012. This may create some market confusion as both the new and the old chips will share the same A-Series branding.
The Zacate chips will be replaced by Wichita, keeping the E-Series branding. The Ontario chips will be replaced by Krishna, retaining the C-Series branding. Both lineups will feature a die size will shrink to 28 nm. New “London” graphics will be dropped in. And the Bobcat cores will be “enhanced” variants (though this may refer simply to lower power consumption via the die shrink).
The slides show Wichita and Krishna collectively referred to as Deccan. They are slotted for a Q2 2012 launch, and will again sell along-side the previous models for one quarter, sharing the same brand name. By Q3 2012 Brazos will be out, Deccan will be full in place.
Fig. 3: Q1 and Q2 2012 should be confusing as it appears that two generations of chips will be sold under the same brand name during these periods.
AMD’s 6 W Desna chip, which is geared at tablets, but has seen minimal OEM interest, will be replaced with Hondo, a 4.5 watt design, disappointingly still built on the 40 nm node.
Interestingly, Deccan and Desna will be getting brand new chipsets (“Yuba” and “Hudson”, respectively), but Comal is going to use virtually the same chipset as Llano (Llano used FS1, Comal uses FS1r2, a minor update).
Of course most of this information has been pretty widely publicized in bits and pieces, but it’s useful to consolidate it and recap the latest info on the timing of the chip drops.
III. 2013 Brings New Cores to the Fusion Lineup
The slides indicate an intriguing battle shaping up in the APU sector. Remember, Intel is planning to bring DirectX 11 goodness to its iGPUs with Ivy Bridge at the 22 nm node in 2012. With 22 nm Atom processors planned for 2013, it’s likely that they will get some DirectX 11 TLC as well, and it’s already been confirmed that the 2013 Atom will be getting the power-sipping tri-gate transistors that year as well.
In short, AMD has better bring it, if it hopes to hang on to its short-lived low-to-mid-range lead.
AMD is pinning its hopes on two new core designs — “Steamroller”, the successor to “Bulldozer”, and “Jaguar”, the successor to “Bobcat”. As with before Steamroller will occupy the higher-power, higher-performance side of things (think Llano), Jaguar will occupy the low-power, lower-performance niche.
Indus (named after a river in India) will replace Comal (named for a river in Texas), which in turn replaced Llano (named for another river in Texas … catch the trend?). The Indus APU will be known as Kaveri (there appears to be a typo in AMD’s slides, which refers to them as Trinity, the code-name of the last-gen Comal platform’s APUs).
On the low-power end Kerala (named for a south-west Indian state) will replace Deccan (named for a southern Indian plateau), which in turned replaced Brazos (named for a river/county in Texas… whoops).
On the tablet-geared ultra-low voltage end, will be Samara (named after a Russian river) will replace Hondo (likely named for New Mexico’s Rio Hondo River), which replaced Desna (named for another Russian river).
Indus will receive a new chipset, “Bolton”. Kerala will get a new chipset named “Yangtze” (more rivers!). And Samara will get a chipset named Salton (code-named in honor of the salty Californian lake).
Fig. 4: New chipsets will air in 2013 for all Fusion platforms
Little is known about what improvements these chipsets will bring. And the slides revealed no details about what GPUs might be included on die as upgrades to the Northern Islands designs found in the previous generation’s dies.
But whatever AMD is cooking up in these categories, it better bring its A-game or Intel’s 22 nm Atoms could be eating their lunch. 2013 should be an interesting year indeed.
The piracy police made one 9-year-old a very unhappy camper
ZMAX will come with a Snapdragon 400 processor and 720p display
UC Davis dares to go where Toyota won't with the Prius
An Apple spokesperson fires back over Microsoft's latest commercials
Engadget gets the scoop on Dell's latest "ultra-portable" notebook