This year’s AMD CES was actually more interesting than I was expecting. The details of the event were well known, as most Kaveri details have been revealed over the past few months. I was unsure what Lisa Su and the gang would go over, but it was actually more interesting than I was expecting.
This past year has been a big one for AMD. They seem to be doing a lot better than others expected them to, especially with all of the delayed product launches on the CPU side for quite a few years. This year saw the APU take a pretty prominent place in the industry with the launch of the latest generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft. AMD made inroads with mobile form factors with a variety of APUs. The HSA Foundation members have grown and HSA members ship two out of every three connected, smart devices. Apple also includes Firepro graphics cards with all of their new Mac Pros.
Kaveri is of course the big news here. AMD feels that this is the best APU yet. The combination of Steamroller CPU cores, GCN graphics compute cores, HSA, hUMA, HQ, TrueAudio, Mantle support, PCI-E 3.0 support, and a configurable TDP makes for a pretty compelling product. AMD has shuffled some nomenclature about by saying that Kaveri, at the top end, is comprised of 12 compute cores. These include 4 Steamroller cores and 8 GCN compute clusters. Each compute cluster matches the historical definition of a core, but of course it looks quite a bit different than a traditional x86 core.
We have gone over Kaveri pretty extensively in the past. The CPU is clocked at 3.7 GHz with a 4 GHz boost. The graphics portion clocks in at 720 MHz. It can support up to DDR-3 2400 MHz memory, which is really needed to extract as much performance out of this new APU. Benchmarks provided by AMD show this product to be a big jump from the previous Richland, and in these particular benchmarks are quite a bit faster than the competing i5 4670K.
Gaming performance is also improved. This APU can run most current applications at 1080P resolutions with low to medium quality settings. Older titles can be run at 1080P with Medium to High/Extreme settings. While this processor is rated at around 867 GFLOPS, which is around 110 GFLOPS greater than the previous top end Richland, it is more efficient at delivering that theoretical performance. It looks to be a significant improvement all around.
Software support is improving with applications from companies like Adobe, The Document Foundation, and Nuance. These cover HSA applications and in Nuance’s case, using the TrueAudio portion to clean up and accelerate voice recognition. TrueAudio is also being supported in five upcoming games. This is not a huge amount, but it is a decent start for this new technology.
Mantle is gaining a lot more momentum with support from 3 engines, 5 developers, and 20+ games in development. They showed off Battlefied 4 running Mantle on a Kaveri APU for the first time publicly. They mentioned that it ran 45% faster than Direct3D at the same quality levels on the same hardware. The display showed frame rates up in the low 50 fps area.
AMD is continuing to move forward on their low power offerings based on Beema and Mullins. Lisa claims that these parts are outperforming the Intel Baytrail offerings in both CPU performance and graphics. Unfortunately, she mentioned noting about the power consumption associated with these results. They showed off the Discovery tablet as well as a fully functional PC that was the size of a large cellphone.
They closed up the even by talking about the Surround House 2. This demo looks significantly better than the previous iteration we saw last year. This features something like a 34.2 speaker setup in a projected dome. It is much more complex than the House from last year, but the hardware running it all is rather common. A single high end Firepro card running on a single A10 7850K. The demo is also one of the first shows of a 360 degree gesture recognition setup.
AMD has come a long way since hitting rock bottom a few years back. They continue to claw their way back to relevance, and they hope that Kaveri will help them regain a foothold in the computing market. They are certainly doing well in the graphics market, but the introduction of Kaveri should help them gain more momentum in the CPU/APU market. We have yet to test Kaveri on our own, but initial results look promising. It is a better APU, but we just don’t know how much better so far.
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