An academic collaboration leads to a GPU/CPU collaboration

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2012 - 12:13 PM |
Tagged: gpgpu, l3 cache, APU

Over at North Carolina State University, students Yi Yang, Ping Xiang and Dr. Huiyang Zhou, along with Mike Mantor of Advanced Micro Devices have been working on a way to improve how efficiently the GPU and CPU work together.  Our current generations of APU/GPGPUs, Llano and Sandy Bridge, have united the two processing units on a single substrate but as of yet they cannot efficiently pass operations back and forth.  This project works to leverage the L3 cache of the CPU to give a high speed bridge between the two processors, allowing the CPU to pass highly parallel tasks to the GPU for more efficient processing and letting the CPU deal with the complex operations it was designed for.  

Along with that bridge comes a change in the way the L2 prefetch is utilized; increasing memory access at that level frees up more for the L3 to pass data between CPU and GPU thanks to a specially designed preexecution unit triggered by the GPU and running on the CPU which will enable synchronized memory fetch instructions.  The result has been impressive, in their tests they saw an average improvement of 21.4% in performance.

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"Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new technique that allows graphics processing units (GPUs) and central processing units (CPUs) on a single chip to collaborate – boosting processor performance by an average of more than 20 percent.

"Chip manufacturers are now creating processors that have a 'fused architecture,' meaning that they include CPUs and GPUs on a single chip,” says Dr. Huiyang Zhou, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who co-authored a paper on the research. "This approach decreases manufacturing costs and makes computers more energy efficient. However, the CPU cores and GPU cores still work almost exclusively on separate functions. They rarely collaborate to execute any given program, so they aren’t as efficient as they could be. That's the issue we’re trying to resolve."

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Live Blog: AMD Financial Analyst Day

Subject: Editorial, Graphics Cards, Processors | February 2, 2012 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: reports, gpu, fad, cpu, APU, analyst, amd

Consider this fair warning: tomorrow here at PC Perspective you will learn the future of AMD.  Sound over dramatic?  We don't think so.  After a pretty interesting year in 2011 for the company and AMD has said on several occasions that this year's Financial Analyst Day was going to reveal a lot about what the future holds for them on the GPU, CPU and APU front.  

Hopefully we will learn what AMD plans to do after the cancelation of the second-generation of ultra lower power APUs, how important discrete graphics will be going forward and what life there is for the processor architecture after Bulldozer.  

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We will be in Sunnyvale at the AMD campus covering the event and we will be holding a live blog at the same time...right here.  The event starts at 9am PST on February 2nd, aso be sure you set your calendars and bookmark this page for all the news!!

A CPU Cooling Heatsink With Built In Computer From AMD

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 10, 2012 - 08:43 PM |
Tagged: nano-itx, heatsink, e-350, cooling, cooler master, CES, APU

At CES today we saw what at first resembles a Cooler Master V6 CPU heastink and fan combo. The processor cooler features a red 120mm fan housed in a black shroud which is then attached to the heatsink itself. The heatsink is a tower design with six copper heatpipes attached to a copper CPU block. The heatpipes then lead into a tower of aluminum fins to dissipate heat.

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On the back of the unit; however, there's a little something extra in the form of a nano-itx motherboard and AMD E-350 APU based on the Brazos platform. The computer is self contained and provides a number of connectivity options. For more information on the Brazos platform and E-350 APU, see our preview and review articles. A quick run down of the E-350 specifications; however, is below.

  • Two Bobcat CPU cores at 1.6 GHz
  • A Radeon HD 6310 GPU with 80 processing cores running at 500 MHz
  • A TDP of 18 watts
  • DirectX 11 Graphics and DDR3 Memory Support

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The bottom of the rear of the CPU cooler is the location of the nano-ITX motherboard's rear IO panel. The motherboard features Wi-Fi, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA(?), and e-SATA(?) connections.

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A side view of the Cooler Master heatsink is available below.

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It's certainly a new idea, and it will definitely hit home for people that don't need or want to run their power hungry main desktop all the time. Because the system is self contained it does present some usability issues. Mainly that you will need to have a KVM or VNC connection to control it and the inside of the computer case is going to become a lot more crowded with cables. Further, it would be a pain to have to open up the main desktop system just to plug in a flash drive or cable. On the other hand, it'd make for a nice media or file server and would not require the desktop be on 24/7 without needing yet another box crowding my desk so I'd give it a shot. (The inside of my computer case is already a mess of wires so what do I have to lose?)

What are your thoughts on this somewhat strange CPU cooler?

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

AMD Shows Off Trinity APU Die And Trinity Powered Notebook

Subject: Cases and Cooling, Processors | January 10, 2012 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: VLIW-4, trinity, piledriver, CES, APU, amd

Today at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, we got to see a demonstration by AMD of an AMD powered computer running dual monitors. Only, it was not just a dual monitor pushing desktop computer. In a surprise twist, AMD took the side panel off of the desktop computer to reveal that it was actually a laptop computer using their next generation AMD Trinity APU that was driving the game on one display, and the windows desktop on the other display. Even more, on the laptop screen itself, it was playing a 720p video.

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Here you can see the two displays that the Trinity powered laptop was driving with Dirt 3 on the left monitor and the Windows desktop on the right one where a video conversion was happening in the background. AMD did not get into any details regarding the transcode, however.

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This is the "desktop" computer case that they opened up to reveal that it was, in fact, a Trinity laptop that was driving all the displays.

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A die shot of the upcoming Trinity APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) sitting next to a USB flash drive. Specifications of the Trinity APUs have not yet been released by AMD; however, if this leak holds true the Trinity APUs will have either two or four Piledriver CPU cores and TDP (thermal design power) of 65 W, 100 W, and 125 Watts (depending on particular chip). Clock speeds will further vary between 2.2 and 3.8 GHz at stock speeds (will run a bit faster with Turbo Core 3.0). The GPU aspect will be clocked between 563 MHz and 711 MHz and is based on the VLIW4 technology of the Cayman graphics Cards (69xx). They estimate that it will deliver up to 30% more performance versus current Llano chips and will support all the fancy new X86 instruction sets like AVX and AES-NI. A nice boost and hopefully the real specifications will come close to this (or be even better, of course).

Update: Another interesting bit of information is that AMD will have a low power Trinity APU with a TDP of 17 watts and will supposedly deliver the same level of performance as the current Llano chips (that draw twice the power).

Update:  AMD has stated Trinity will deliver a 25% increase in CPU performance and a 50% increase in GPU performance versus current Llano APUs.  Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Trinity info as it develops.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

AMD's new A-series processors; why didn't they tell anyone?

Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2011 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: llano, APU, amd, a-series

From DigiTimes we have some news that AMD has been keeping a very tight lid on for some reason.   The secret was not a brand new product line or surprising advance that won't see the light of day for a long time to come, instead it was the arrival of updated A-series APUs to the market.  With absolutely no press build up or even a review of these processors in sight it came as a bit of a surprise, albeit a good one.  We have a pair of new A-8 and A-6 processors and a single A-4 on the desktop side, with an addional "K" in the name of two.  That "K", which you will remember from Intel processors, does indeed seem to replace the Black Edition name AMD previously used to identify unlocked processors.  For the notebooks are a few more chips, two of each of the A-8 and A-6, three A-4 processors and an E2 as well.  The naming scheme here is concerned with the TDP of the chip, an M part is 35W and the MX is 45W.  

Perhaps AMD let a few too many of their marketers go as they are not only not telling anyone about their new parts they had to borrow a naming scheme from the competition.  Catch all of DigiTimes coverage here.

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"AMD has updated its A-series lineup of desktop and notebook accelerated processing units (APUs), further improving its family of dual- and quad-core APUs. Along with speed and performance improvements, AMD Steady Video update make this unique feature more compelling. For desktop users, AMD extends its overclocking pedigree to the APU; for the first time users can tune both x86 and graphics settings in a single processor for boosted performance.

The updated AMD A-series APUs combine up to four x86 CPU cores with up to 400 Radeon cores, delivering powerful DirectX 11-capable, discrete-level graphics and dedicated HD video processing on a single chip. These new APUs increase performance and deliver a richer feature set than existing AMD A-series APUs. Plus, only AMD APUs offer AMD Dual Graphics for an up to 144% visual performance boost when a select APU is paired with a select AMD Radeon HD 6500 Series graphics card.

The AMD A-series family of APUs also features AMD Steady Video, designed to stabilize videos during playback. On select systems using AMD A-series APUs, Internet Explorer 9 will include an AMD Steady Video plugin, unlocking one-click control to simplify access to the premium AMD Steady Video feature for video stabilization.

All AMD A-series processors are powered by AMD VISION Engine Software, a suite of software that provides end-users with regular updates designed to improve system performance and stability, and can add new software enhancements."

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Source: DigiTimes
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Speed Bumps and Unlocked Processors

AMD has announced the latest members of their fairly successful APU series for both the desktop and the mobile markets.  The original release in June of this year saw the first fully integrated 32 nm APUs from AMD.  These proved to be quite popular with their decent CPU performance and outstanding integrated graphics speed and quality.  The launch was not entirely smooth for AMD though, even though the company had been shipping products to partners and OEMs for some months.

The desktop saw limited SKUs, and the availability of the top end parts was disappointing to say the least.  AMD and their partners at GLOBALFOUNDRIES were not able to produce enough usable chips to supply demand.  Quantities were tight throughout the summer, and the mobile market did not see as big of a boost for AMD as was hoped.  AMD did get a lot of new business though, as the thermal and power envelopes of these A-series chips were able to match that of Intel.

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Continue reading our analysis of the new AMD APU releases, both notebook and desktop!

Author:
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Gigabyte

Introduction and Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Gigabyte

AMD's Fusion technology has worked out well for the company in 2011 and many vendors have reaped the benefits by including this platform in their mini ITX motherboards and netbook offerings. Gigabyte found room in their product line to feature this chipset in its GA-E350N-USB3. We received one of these boards for review to see how it stacks up against other E-350 mini ITX boards available today.

 

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Courtesy of Gigabyte

 The GA-E350N-USB3 can be purchased for around $89.99 (after mail-in rebate from Newegg) and includes an AMD dual-core E-350 1.6GHz processor with an integrated Radeon HD 6310 GPU and support for USB 3.0, SATA3, and a PCI-E x16 slot for add-on video cards or other PCI-E devices. AMD developed the Brazos platform to directly compete with Intel's Atom and NVIDIA's ION technologies for the top slot this year's netbooks, notebooks, and some entry-level desktop solutions.

Read our full review of the Gigabyte E350-USB3 motherboard!

Video Perspective: AMD A8-3850 vs Intel Core i3-2105 Gaming Comparison

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | December 6, 2011 - 04:45 PM |
Tagged: video, sandy bridge, core i7, APU, amd, a8-3850

Our collection of videos comparing the AMD A8-3850 Llano APU to the Sandy Bridge-based Core i3-2105 have been very popular.  We thought we would wrap up 2011 with one final video that looks at the integrated graphics solutions on both processors in five of the top games released in 2011.  Here is what and how we compared them:

  • Batman: Arkham City - 1920x1080 - Low
  • Portal 2 - 1920x1080 - Very High
  • Battlefield 3 - 1366x768 - Low
  • Skyrim - 1920x1080 - Low
  • Modern Warfare 3 - 1920x1080 - High

Not to give away the secret but...

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Be sure you check out our Video Perspective below!!

Video Perspective: AMD A8-3850 vs Core i3-2105 on Modern Warfare 3

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | November 21, 2011 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: video, sandy bridge, mw3, modern warfare 3, Intel, APU, amd

There is little denying that Call of Duty: Modern Warfar 3 is a success; I think it sold like 19 billion copies on the first night.  Something like that.  So, as we have done quite a bit in recent months, we wanted to see how our processor-graphics based solutions compared to each other in the title.  We recently took a look at how Battlefield 3 performed and we had a lot of great feedback on that post - so let's try this again!  

Luckily for gamers (or not, depending on your point of view), MW3 is pretty light on graphics hardware.  We did our testing at 1920x1080 with the following quality settings:

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With 2x anti-aliasing enabled and most quality settings turned up to their highest options, the game still looked pretty good during our testing.  No, it's no Battlefield 3, but very few titles are.

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Both systems come in with a total cost of about $450 with the Core i3-2105 and A8-3850 at the center of each configuration. 

As you might guess, the integrated graphics on the AMD Llano APU outperforms the Sandy Bridge graphics, but by how much?  Check out the video for all the details!

Heard of the AMD VISION Engine?

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | November 15, 2011 - 05:22 PM |
Tagged: AMD VISION Engine, amd, fusion, APU, steady video

The AMD VISION Engine is the name that AMD is using to describe the new features they are offering for users of their GPUs, APUs and those with both.  One example is the AMD Steady Video feature that Ryan and Ken showed off in July.  That is not all, this encompasses the hybrid Crossfire that exists in Llano laptops with discrete GPUs straight through to support for 30bit colour depth (aka 10bit per channel, 10 bit per pixel) and the GPU accelerated Flash. 

If you are interested in getting more from your APU then head to the AMD VISION site to download their driver package, think of it as a Catalyst with benefits.

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Source: AMD