A quick visit to Austin

AMD’s first Fusion APU is nearly here and we are finally able to talk about performance results from our hands out time with a reference platform a couple weeks back. The new AMD E-350 with Radeon HD 6310 graphics is going to put the world of ultra-mobile computing on its head!
As I mentioned in a preview article from last week, AMD let us spend some time with their upcoming APU (accelerated processing unit), better known as Zacate or Ontario.  Made for the mobile computing and low-end desktop markets, Zacate is the first APU in a transition period for AMD as we move into a world of CPU/GPU combinations.  

AMD E-350 1.6 GHz APU Brazos Platform Preview - Zacate APU Benchmarked - Processors 52

Zacate is the processor, but Brazos is the platform name that combines the first Fusion APU with a modern south bridge with storage controllers, PCI Express channels and more to offer an incredibly low power but high performance computing solution.  

Our own Josh Walrath wrote up a good architecture and processor overview for us last week, but I have combined it into a quick recap here.  The CPU portion of the Zacate/Ontario core is based on the first new architecture to come from AMD since the introduction of the K7.  The “Bobcat” core is a low power, dual-issue, out-of-order architecture that puts an emphasis on power efficiency rather than just raw power and it shows with the dual-core version being offered in both 18w and 9w derivatives.

AMD E-350 1.6 GHz APU Brazos Platform Preview - Zacate APU Benchmarked - Processors 53

The GPU portion of the APU is based on the award winning architectures from AMD’s desktop line of graphics cards, though scaled WAY down to meet power requirements.  The Radeon HD 6310 graphics core is the labeled used for the 18w APU SKU that combines 80 stream processors / 2 SIMDs running at 500 MHz each while the Radeon HD 6250 takes those some 80 stream processors down to 280 MHz.  (Just a note, AMD has started calling these “Vision Engine nanocores for parallel computing capability and graphics”.  I likely won’t.)

AMD E-350 1.6 GHz APU Brazos Platform Preview - Zacate APU Benchmarked - Processors 54

Here are upcoming SKUs that will launch in early 2011:
  • Zacate (18w)
    • AMD E-350 with AMD Radeon HD 6310 Graphics 
      • 1.6 GHz dual-core
      • 80 stream processors
    • AMD E-240 with HD 6310 Graphics
      • 1.5 GHz single-core
      • 80 stream processors
  • Ontario (9w)
    • AMD C-50 with HD 6250 Graphics
      • 1.0 GHz dual-core
      • 80 stream processors
    • AMD C-30 with HD 6250 Graphics
      • 1.2 GHz single-core
      • 80 stream processors
The single-core options allow AMD to sell slightly higher leakage parts under the 18w label at lower price and help keep the 40nm foundry waste to a minimum.  Another side note there: the Zacate/Ontario APUs are the first to be made by TSMC for AMD – and interesting undertaking only really possible since the split from AMD’s design and foundry teams.  

By keeping the Brazos platform as a lower power level AMD is aiming squarely at the netbook/notebook markets as well as the super-budget desktop machines.  During my brief time with the development platform I was very impressed with out how cool the APU was during pretty strenuous testing – in many cases the fan on the tiny heatsink wasn’t even spinning the temperatures were so low.

AMD E-350 1.6 GHz APU Brazos Platform Preview - Zacate APU Benchmarked - Processors 55

When is the last time you have seen temperatures that low on your CPU?

You can expect to see platforms and systems based on the AMD Brazos platform and the E/C-series APUs priced well under $500 and while AMD wouldn’t be more specific than that I would not be surprised to see sub-$400 netbooks as well at or shortly after launch. 

That puts the Brazos platform in an interesting spot in terms of competition; let’s see what we decided to pit the first AMD APU against in terms of performance testing.

« PreviousNext »