Retiring the Workhorses
There is an inevitable shift coming. Honestly, this has been quite obvious for some time, but it has just taken AMD a bit longer to get here than many have expected. Some years back we saw AMD release their new motto, “The Future is Fusion”. While many thought it somewhat interesting and trite, it actually foreshadowed the massive shift from monolithic CPU cores to their APUs. Right now AMD’s APUs are doing “ok” in desktops and are gaining traction in mobile applications. What most people do not realize is that AMD will be going all APU all the time in the very near future.
We can look over the past few years and see that AMD has been headed in this direction for some time, but they simply have not had all the materials in place to make this dramatic shift. To get a better understanding of where AMD is heading, how they plan to address multiple markets, and what kind of pressures they are under, we have to look at the two major non-APU markets that AMD is currently hanging onto by a thread. In some ways, timing has been against AMD, not to mention available process technologies.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | September 4, 2013 - 11:32 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Temash, ifa 2013, asus, APU, amd, a4-1200
The hits just keep coming from ASUS this morning with the announcement of a new ultraportable notebook with the ambiguous name of X102BA. Though the name might not be catchy the device itself is more interesting because of the hardware that is powering it, specifically an AMD Temash A4-1200 APU.
This marks one of the few highly visible systems being powered by the AMD Temash architecture and I will be very curious to its reception. The APU itself is a dual-core part that runs at 1.0 GHz with integrated Radeon HD 8180 graphics that is more than enough for a modest Windows 8 working environment. There is a quad-core variant of Temash available but ASUS decided to go with the dual-core option. If you need more information on the new architecture that AMD created for Kabini and Temash (based on Jaguar CPU cores and GCN GPU cores) then you should see our coverage from their announcement back in May.
The rest of the specifications are a bit more tame, including a 1366x768 10.1-in 10-point multi-touch screen, USB 3.0, 802.11n WIFI, bundled Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 and a touted 2-second resume time.
Even though the battery life is only listed at 5 hours, the 2.4 pound weight makes the X102BA a very portable machine. Plus you can get it in Hot Pink!
Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2013 - 11:22 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbox one, SoC, microsoft, gaming, console, amd
At the Hot Chips conference earlier this week, Microsoft showed off several slides detailing the SoC used in its upcoming Xbox One gaming console.
The Xbox One uses a System on a Chip (SoC) designed by AMD’s Semi-Custom Business Unit. The processor features eight “Jaguar” AMD CPU cores, an AMD GCN (Graphics Core Next) based GPU with 768 shader cores, an audio co-processor, and 32MB of on-chip eSRAM.
The SoC, measuring 363mm^2 is manufactured on TSMC’s 28nm HPM process. The chip can interface with 8GB of DDR3 main memory with bandwidth of 68.3 GB/s or utilize the on-chip SRAM which has bandwidth of 102GB/s. The embedded SRAM is in addition to the smaller L1 and L2 caches. The slides indicate that the GPU and CPU can at least access the SRAM, though it still remains frustratingly unknown if the SoC supports anything like AMD’s hUMA technology which would allow the CPU and GPU to both read and write to the same memory address spaces without having to copy data between CPU and GPU-accessible memory space. It may be that the CPU and GPU can use the SRAM, but the same memory spaces can not be shared, though that may be the pessimist in me talking. On the other hand, there could be something more, but it’s impossible to say from the block diagram spotted by Semi-Accurate at the Microsoft presentation.
With that said, the slides do reveal a few interesting figures about the SoC that were not known previously. The Xbox One SoC has 47MB of on-chip memory including 32MB eSRAM used by the CPU and GPU and 64KB of SRAM used by the audio co-processor. The chip’s GPU is rated for Microsoft’s DirectX 11.1 and above graphics API. Further, Microsoft rates the GPU at 1.31 TFLOPS, 41 Gigatexels-per-second, and 13.6 Gigapixels-per-second. Additionally, the GCN-based GPU is able to hardware-encode multi-stream H.264 AVC MVC video and hardware decode multiple formats, including H.264 MVC. The hardware encoder is likely being used for the console’s game capture functionality.
The audio processors in the Xbox One SoC use two 128-bit SIMD floating point vector cores rated at 15.4 GFLOPS and “specialized hardware engines” and “signal processing optimized vector and scalar cores.”
The final interesting specification I got from the slides was that the SoC is able to go into a low power state that is as low as 2.5% of the chip’s full power using power islands and clock gating techniques.
You can find all of the geeky details in these slides over at SemiAccurate.
Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2013 - 02:45 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: xbox one, video, ps4, podcast, msi, hUMA, hsa, gtx 780, corsair, case, amd, air 540, 780 lightning
PC Perspective Podcast #266 - 08/29/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the Corsair Air 540 Case, MSI GTX 780 Lightning, hUMA in the PS4, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Teitelman
Program length: 1:12:24
Week in Review:
0:04:20 Corsair Air 540 Case Review
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Josh: Was on special last week
1-888-38-PCPER or firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: General Tech | August 27, 2013 - 12:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, roadmap, 2014, Kaveri, Kabini, carrizo, beema, Excavator, Nolan, 2015, socket sf1b
As is usually the case, AMD will not comment on the accuracy of DigiTimes information but as we have seen in the past their roadmaps have been spot on. Over the next 8 months or so will see the arrival of the Hawaii GPU family and the entrance of Kaveri and Kabini chips, nothing new there but good to have independent confirmation. In the latter part of 2014 and 2015 things are a little more interesting as Beema will replace Kabini with an HSA compliant architecture and use a new socket called FS1B. In 2015 Beema will be replaced by a chip called Nolan and we will finally see the Excavator based Carrizo which are slated to have 45W and 65W versions.
You can expect to see FM1 and AM3 phased out of active production by the end of 2013, with AM3+ and FM2 being the two active sockets until FS1B arrives.
"AMD has recently updated its product roadmap and is set to release its Hawaii-based GPUs at the end of September, Kaveri-based APUs for the high-end segment and Kabini-based APUs for the entry-level segment in the first quarter of 2014, according to sources from the upstream supply chain."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- What Surface RT flop? Nokia said to be readying WinRT slab for September @ The Register
- Java 6 exploit found in the wild @ The Inquirer
- Chlorine has got graphene covered @ Nanotechweb
- Samsung will launch a 55in curved OLED 3D TV in the UK on 5 September @ The Inquirer
- The 20 most bizarre and innovative motherboards: 1999 - 2010 @ Hardware.Info
- NAND flash vendors gearing up for 3D chips @ DigiTimes
- Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney and AMD don’t see eye-to-eye on hUMA @ VR-Zone
- Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA6500 @ Kitguru
- TP-Link TL-PA551KIT AV550+ Gigabit Powerline Kit With AC Passthrough @ eTeknix
- Making S’mores with 50,000 Volts @ Hack a Day
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 26, 2013 - 01:24 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: amd, Windows 8.1, microsoft, directx 11.2, graphics cards, gaming, GCN
Earlier this month, several websites reported that AMD’s latest Graphics Core Next (GCN) based graphics cards (7000 series and 8000 series OEM lines) would not be compatible with the Windows 8.1-only DirectX 11.2 API. This was inferred from a statement made by AMD engineer Laylah Mah in an interview with c1 Magazin.
An AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.
Fortunately, the GCN-based cards will fully support DirectX 11.2 once an updated driver has been released. As it turns out, Microsoft’s final DirectX 11.2 specification ended up being slightly different than what AMD expected. As a result, the graphics cards do not currently fully support the API. The issue is not one of hardware, however, and an updated driver can allow the GCN-based 7000 series hardware to fully support the latest DirectX 11.2 API and major new features such as tiled resources.
The updated driver will reportedly be released sometime in October to coincide with Microsoft’s release of Windows 8.1. Specifically, Maximum PC quoted AMD in stating the following:
"The Radeon HD 7000 series hardware architecture is fully DirectX 11.2-capable when used with a driver that enables this feature. AMD is planning to enable DirectX 11.2 with a driver update in the Windows 8.1 launch timeframe in October, when DirectX 11.2 ships. Today, AMD is the only GPU manufacturer to offer fully-compatible DirectX 11.1 support, and the only manufacturer to support Tiled Resources Tier-2 within a shipping product stack.”
So fret not, Radeon 7000-series owners, you will be able to fully utilize DX 11.2 and all its features once games start implementing them, and assuming you upgrade to Windows 8.1.
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 23, 2013 - 04:40 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: never settle, gamescom, amd
In much the same way as it was at E3 this year, AMD has plastered themselves all over the show floor at Gamescom 2013 in Cologne, Germany. The annual game celebration in Europe focuses not just on PC gaming but consoles as well but with AMD APUs at the heart of both the upcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4, they are about as universal as you can get.
The AMD booth at Gamescom obviously leans heavily on the world of PC gaming with both next-generation consoles not coming until November but the big draw is obviously the Battlefield 4 section that allows gamers to walk up and play. Due out October 29th here in North America, BF4 is likely to be one the biggest titles of the year available on current consoles, PC and the PS4 and Xbox One. And though nothing is confirmed it will likely be bundle game for Radeon graphics cards at some point as well...
Red capes and Battlefield 4
Much like the Penny Arcade Expo coming up next month in Seattle, Gamescom is an event where the public is invited to get hands on with impressive games and impressive technology without having to filter it through the eye of the media. AMD showcases unique capabilities of the PC gaming market in the booth as well like the 5-screen Eyefinity configuration seen here DiRT Showdown.
As is usually the case with public events, you're going to meet some interesting characters while you walk around but that is part of the fun! If you have never attended Gamescom, PAX, Blizzcon, Quakecon or anything like it, I would highly encourage you make plans to do so as it will really revitalize your excitement for gaming! While shows like CES and Computex drain me of energy, these public-facing experiences are much more spirited.
Other booths at the show are also running AMD-powered gaming systems for all of their demonstrations including Gaming Evolved partners like Deep Silver, Square-Enix, EA/DICE and Red5. If you haven't seen games like Thief or Saints Row IV in action then you are missing out and locals in Cologne still have the opportunity to do so. AMD claims that all the demo systems running these PC games are Radeon-powered: Battlefield 4, The Sims 4, Firefall, Saints Row IV, Need for Speed Rivals, FIFA 2014, Murdered Soul Suspect, and Final Fantasy XIV.
Even with all the other discussion and debate about AMD graphics technologies, the second half of 2013 is going to be incredibly exciting on all fronts!
Subject: Processors | August 23, 2013 - 03:28 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: piledriver, FX-9590, amd
Over the last couple of days we had heard rumors about a potential price drop on the 5.0 GHz (Turbo Speed) AMD FX-9590 processor that was released in June. As the week progressed, the likelihood of this being true skyrocketed as several online outlets are showing much lower than expected pricing on the 8-core 220 watt CPU.
Two different UK-based online and retail outlets were showing the FX-9590 for sale for as low as £279 or $434 USD. That is a big price drop from £699 rate ($1008 USD) and obviously is causing quite a stir in the community. This puts the latest entries in the world of AMD FX just above the other parts like the standard FX-8350 in terms of cost which was definitely NOT the case in June or July.
In the US, the FX-9590 is still selling at Newegg as an OEM part but the current price is stuck at $879!
So why all the fuss? AMD claims that these are NOT price drops at AMD's request and that instead are the result of "business to business" negotiations. The official statement from AMD is as follows:
AMD channel partners are able to deliver the AMD FX-9000-series processor, AMD’s fastest and most powerful desktop processor, in highly customized systems and solutions in a manner that provides AMD fans access to the technology. We are excited to see high levels of interest in our AMD FX 9000-series processors, and will continue to work with our valued channel partners to ensure our products are readily available to the enthusiast community.
If you're like me, you don't really take anything interesting away from this statement other than "no comment." So what is really happening?
First, according to AMD the FX-9590 was never intended to be sold as an OEM part and rather was supposed to ship only in pre-built systems from companies like iBuyPower or in bundles that include a motherboard and cooler along with the processor. If these bundles were slow sellers though it seems plausible that the retailers would find ways to expire the bundle program and "accidentally" start selling the processors alone. Based on photos from ReviewBros that appears to be the case.
Photo source: ReviewBros
In reality though, this is the pricing that we would have liked to see the FX-9590 ship at originally and the first sets of reviews (that we were not included on) might have been much more positive. At $430 USD the FX-9590 competes with the higher end Core i7 Haswell processors in terms of performance but obviously uses quite a bit more power to get there.
If you are interested in buying a bundle or a system with the FX-9590 I do expect there to be some updates to pricing from all of the same system builders that launched with the processor originally to reflect these "business to business" happenings. I have already expressed interest to AMD and a couple of boutique builders in reviewing a system with these pricing and placement adjustments.
As for the idea of a "price drop", things are just more complicated than that. AMD tells me that because it was never intended to sell as an OEM part any pricing changes are not a result of AMD's demands. Honestly I don't know why AMD is so opposed to just saying there has been a price drop other than the negative reaction of the initial launch buyers; but that is always the case in the enthusiast market.
Regardless of the verbiage, the fact is that you'll likely be able to find the AMD FX-9590 and its 5.0 GHz Turbo clock rate available at lower prices in systems and on store shelves (though without AMD's consent) for much closer to the actual performance/value they offer. I'll take it.
Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2013 - 12:51 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, fab lite, hsbc
AMD is continuing with its Fab Light plans as they are awaiting approval for the sale of their Singapore facility to HSBC. As they have done in the past they will rent the facility back from the new owners, this time on a 10 year lease, and continue to use the location but will forgo the costs associated with ownership. If approved the sale is expected to add $46million USD to AMD's bank account at a time when the company could really use the funds. Do not take this as a sign AMD is about to fold, it is a continuation of a business plan that has been in effect since before the birth of GLOBALFOUNDRIES.
"AMD has announced that its Singapore subsidiary has entered into a conditional put-and-call option agreement to sell and lease-back its Singapore facility located at 508 Chai Chee Lane, Singapore 469032 to HSBC Institutional Trust Services (Singapore), in its capacity as trustee of Sabana Shari'ah Compliant Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust (Sabana REIT)."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Steve Ballmer's resignation letter to Microsoft employees in full @ The Inquirer
- EMC, you big tease! At last, the specs for million-IOPS VNX2 @ The Register
- Xerox begins rolling out patches for jumbled-numbers copier glitch @ The Register
- Groklaw was the canary in the coal mine @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | August 22, 2013 - 01:39 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation 4, Kabini, hUMA, amd
UPDATE: I have added new info at the bottom of this post with more commentary from AMD (kind of).
You might have seen some reports in the last couple of days claiming that the upcoming Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) will have a big advantage over the Xbox One thanks to its unique ability to support AMD's hUMA memory architecture. hUMA, heterogeneous unified memory architecture, is an exciting new memory technology that AMD has built into upcoming APUs.
Josh published a story on hUMA that sums it as so:
The idea behind hUMA is quite simple; the CPU and GPU share memory resources, they are able to use pointers to access data that has been processed by either one or the other, and the GPU can take page faults and not rely only on page locked memory. Memory in this case is bi-directionally coherent, so coherency issues with data in caches which are later written to main memory will not cause excessive waits for either the CPU or GPU to utilize data that has been changed in cache, but not yet written to main memory.
There's just one problem with these various reports (VR-Zone, ExtremeTech): they're incorrect. After sending some emails to our representatives at AMD I was told that "Kabini doesn't support hUMA" which is the APU that both the PS4 and Xbox One processors are based on. AMD further clarified with us:
Our spokesperson made inaccurate statements about our semi-custom APU architectures and does not speak for Microsoft, Sony or the AMD semi-custom business unit responsible for co-developing the next generation console APUs.
So while the PS4 will still be a faster system thanks to its higher SIMD processor (GPU core) count, there is no support for a true heterogeneous unified memory architecture in either upcoming console platform.
NOTE: I have had several people point out that it's possible Sony and Microsoft worked on their own custom memory architectures that will perform similar functionally to hUMA. That is entirely possible but means that official hUMA support isn't on the SoCs.
UPDATE: AMD contacted me again to make another comment. Essentially, they said that the correction statement to the original statement claiming hUMA was part PS4 was "inaccurrate" but that this correction does NOT mean the opposite claim is true. Even when pressed for a more specific and debate-ending comment, AMD wouldn't give us any more information.
So does the PS4 have support for some type of heterogeneous unified memory? Maybe. And the Xbox One? Maybe. At this point, I'd stop listening to anything AMD has to say on the subject as they are likely to recant it shortly thereafter. Many readers have emailed me with their thoughts and I personally feel that its more likely the original statement from AMD (that the PS4 will have the edge with a hUMA design) will turn out to be the truth in the long run...