Bulldozer to Vishera
Bulldozer is the word. Ok, perhaps it is not “the” word, but it is “a” word. When AMD let that little codename slip some years back, AMD enthusiasts and tech journalists started to salivate about the possibilities. Here was a unique and very new architecture that promised excellent single thread performance and outstanding multi-threaded performance all in a package that was easy to swallow and digest. Probiotics for the PC. Some could argue that the end product for Bulldozer and probiotics are the same, but I am not overly fond of writing articles containing four letter colorful metaphors.
The long and short of Bulldozer is that it was a product that was pushed out too fast, it had specifications that were too aggressive for the time, and it never delivered on the promise of the architecture. Logically there are some very good reasons behind the architecture, but implementing these ideas into a successful product is another story altogether. The chip was never able to reach the GHz range it was supposed to and stay within reasonable TDP limits. To get the chip out in a timely manner, timings had to be loosened internally so the chip could even run. Performance per clock was pretty dismal, and the top end FX-8150 was only marginally faster than the previous top end Phenom II X6 1100T. In some cases, the X6 was still faster and a more competent “all around” processor.
There really was not a whole lot for AMD to do about the situation. It had to have a new product, and it just did not turn out as nicely as they had hoped. The reasons for this are legion, but simply put AMD is competing with a company that is over ten times the size, with the resulting R&D budgets that such a size (and margins) can afford. Engineers looking for work are a dime a dozen, and Intel can hire as many as they need. So, instead of respinning Bulldozer ad nauseum and releasing new speed grades throughout the year by tweaking the process and metal layer design, AMD let the product line sit and stagnate at the top end for a year (though they did release higher TDP models based on the dual module FX-4000 and triple module FX-6000 series). Engineers were pushed into more forward looking projects. One of these is Vishera.
Subject: Processors | October 2, 2012 - 04:56 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: vishera, trinity, Steamroller, piledriver, bulldozer, amd, a8, a6, A4, a10, 5800K, 5600K
The NDA is over and we can finally tell you all about the new generation of Trinity, especially the compute portion which we were not allowed to discuss in the controversial preview. Part of the good news is the price, Legit Reviews found the highest MSRP is $122 for the A10-5800K and it is currently available, though at $130. The performance increase from the previous generation is decent for multicore applications though not so much for single threaded applications, overall you can expect general computing performance in line with Core i3 but not Core i5. Gaming on the other hand did show much improvement, especially with you compare the built in HD7660D to Intel's current HD4000 and HD3500. You can catch Josh's review right here.
"The internal testing from AMD that we can see above shows a 37% increase in the 3DMark 11 score between the first generation A-Series Llano and this generation of A-Series Trinity. While our numbers don't match their numbers exactly, our Llano system scored 1115 3Dmarks while the AMD internal testing showed 1150 3DMarks. Our AMD A10-5800K scored 1521 3DMarks while they scored 1570. The overall difference was remarkably similar, AMD is boasting an increase of 37% and we saw a difference of 36.4%..."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- AMD’s Trinity Faces Off With Intel’s Ivy Bridge @ SemiAccurate
- AMD “Virgo” Platform: 2nd Generation APU @ Bjorn3D
- AMD A10-5800K APU Performance Review @ HardwareHeaven
- AMD A10-5800K and A8-5600K APUs for Socket FM2 @ techPowerUp
- AMD A10-5800K Trinity APU Review @ TechwareLabs
- Asus F2A85-V Pro & AMD A10 5800K (w/ HD7660D) @ Kitguru
- AMD A10-5800K & A8-5600K Review: Trinity on the Desktop, Part 2 @ AnandTech
- AMD A10 5800K APU processor review and MSI FM-2 A85XA-G65 @ Guru of 3D
- AMD A10-5800K Unlocked "Trinity" Quad Core APU Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- AMD A8-3850 CPU review @ Rbmods
- Gigabyte F2A85X-UP4 & AMD A10 5800K @ Kitguru
- AMD A10-5800K / A8-5600K full review: Trinity for desktops @ Hardware.info
- AMD Trinity for Desktops. Part 1: Graphics Core @ X-bit Labs
- Workstation & Server CPU Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- All Core i3 Models @ Hardware Secrets
- Intel Core i3 3225 and 3220 review: entry-level Ivy Bridge @ Hardware.info
Trinity Finally Comes to the Desktop
Trinity. Where to start? I find myself asking that question, as the road to this release is somewhat tortuous. Trinity, as a product code name, came around in early 2011. The first working silicon was shown that Summer. The first actual release of product was the mobile part in late Spring of this year. Throughout the summer notebook designs based on Trinity started to trickle out. Today we cover the release of the desktop versions of this product.
AMD has certainly had its ups and downs when it comes to APU releases. Their first real APU was Zacate, based on the new Bobcat CPU architecture. This product was an unmitigated success for AMD. Llano, on the other hand, had a pretty rocky start. Production and various supply issues caused it to be far less of a success than hoped. These issues were oddly enough not cleared up until late Spring of this year. By then mobile Trinity was out and people were looking towards the desktop version of the chip. AMD saw the situation, and the massive supply of Llano chips that it had, and decided to delay introduction of desktop Trinity until a later date.
To say that expectations for Trinity are high is an understatement. AMD has been on the ropes for quite a few years in terms of CPU performance. While the Phenom II series were at least competitive with the Core 2 Duo and Quad chips, they did not match up well against the latest i7/i5/i3 series of parts. Bulldozer was supposed to erase the processor advantage Intel had, but it came out of the oven as a seemingly half baked part. Piledriver was designed to succeed Bulldozer, and is supposed to shore up the architecture to make it more competitive. Piledriver is the basis of Trinity. Piledriver does sport significant improvements in clockspeed, power consumption, and IPC (instructions per clock). People are hopeful that Trinity would be able to match the performance of current Ivy Bridge processors from Intel, or at least get close.
So does it match Intel? In ways, I suppose. How much better is it than Bulldozer? That particular answer is actually a bit surprising. Is it really that much of a step above Llano? Yet another somewhat surprising answer for that particular question. Make no mistake, Trinity for desktop is a major launch for AMD, and their continued existence as a CPU manufacturer depends heavily on this part.
Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2012 - 02:58 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: vishera, trinity, Steamroller, piledriver, hot chips, bulldozer, amd, Abu Dhabi
You've seen the slides everywhere and read through what Josh could observe and predict from those slides but at the end of Hot Chips will still know little more about the core everyone is waiting for. The slides show a core little changed from Bulldozer, which is exactly what we've been expecting as AMD has always described Steamroller as a refined Bulldozer design, improving the existing architecture as opposed to a complete redesign. SemiAccurate did pull out one little gem which might mean good news for both AMD and consumers which pertains to the high density libraries slide. The 30% decrease in size and power consumption seems to have been implemented by simply using the high density libraries that AMD uses for GPUs. As this library already exists, AMD didn't need to spend money to develop it, they essentially managed this 30% improvement with a button press, as SemiAccurate put it. This could well mean that Steamroller will either come out at a comparatively low price or will give AMD higher profit margins ... or a mix of both.
"With that in mind, the HDL slide was rather interesting. AMD is claiming that if you rebuild Bulldozer with an HDL library, the resulting chip has a 30% decrease in size and power use. To AMD at least, this is worth a full shrink, but we only buy that claim if it is 30% smaller and 30% less power hungry, not 30% in aggregate. That said, it is a massive gain with just a button press.
AMD should be applauded, or it would have been, but during the keynote, the one thing that kept going through my mind was, “Why didn’t they do this 5 years ago?”. If you can get 30% from changing out a library to the ones you build your GPUs with, didn’t someone test this out before you decided on layout tools?"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The best and worst of IFA 2012 @ The Inquirer
- US energy lab's pump-happy petaflopper goes green @ The Register
- Quantum Teleportation Sends Information 143 Kilometers @ Slashdot
- Finger-free Kinect coming to fondlesome Windows 8 @ The Register
- VIA suffers close to 15% on-month drop in August revenues @ DigiTimes
- Micron expresses interest in partnering with TSMC @ DigiTimes
- An Argument Against Expensive Solid State Drives @ Benchmark Reviews
- Interview: 2Dawn Games on its upcoming shooter 'Ravaged' and life as an indie studio @ TechSpot
Ah, the end of August. School is about to start. American college football is about to get underway. Hot Chips is now in full swing. I guess the end of August caters to all sorts of people. For the people who are most interested in Hot Chips, the amount of information on next generation CPU architectures is something to really look forward to. AMD is taking this opportunity to give us a few tantalizing bits of information about their next generation Steamroller core which will be introduced with the codenamed “Kaveri” APU due out in 2013.
AMD is seemingly on the brink of releasing the latest architectural update with Vishera. This is a Piledriver+ based CPU that will find its way into AM3+ sockets. On the server side it is expected that the Abu Dhabi processors will also be released in a late September timeframe. Trinity was the first example of a Piledriver based product, and it showed markedly improved thermals as compared to previous Bulldozer based products, and featured a nice little bump in IPC in both single and multi-threaded applications. Vishera and Abu Dhabi look to be Piledriver+, which essentially means that there are a few more tweaks in the design that *should* allow it to go faster per clock than Trinity. There have been a few performance leaks so far, but nothing that has been concrete (or has shown final production-ready silicon).
Until that time when Vishera and its ilk are released, AMD is teasing us with some Steamroller information. This presentation is featured at Hotchips today (August 28). It is a very general overview of improvements, but very few details about how AMD is achieving increased performance with this next gen architecture are given. So with that, I will dive into what information we have.
Less Risk, Faster Product Development and Introduction
There have been quite a few articles lately about the upcoming Bulldozer refresh from AMD, but a lot of the information that they have posted is not new. I have put together a few things that seem to have escaped a lot of these articles, and shine a light on what I consider the most important aspects of these upcoming releases. The positive thing that most of these articles have achieved is increasing interest in AMD’s upcoming products, and what they might do for that company and the industry in general.
The original FX-8150 hopefully will only be a slightly embarrasing memory for AMD come Q3/Q4 of this year.
The current Bulldozer architecture that powers the AMD FX series of processors is not exactly an optimal solution. It works, and seems to do fine, but it does not surpass the performance of the previous generation Phenom II X6 series of chips in any meaningful way. Let us not mention how it compares to Intel’s Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge products. It is not that the design is inherently flawed or bad, but rather that it was a unique avenue of thought that was not completely optimized. The train of thought is that AMD seems to have given up on the high single threaded performance that Intel has excelled at for some time. Instead they are going for good single threaded performance, and outstanding multi-threaded performance. To achieve this they had to rethink how to essentially make the processor as wide as possible, keep the die size and TDP down to reasonable sizes, and still achieve a decent amount of performance in single threaded applications.
Bulldozer was meant to address this idea, and its success is debatable. The processor works, it shows up as an eight logical core processor, and it seems to scale well with multi-threading. The problem, as stated before, is that it does not perform like a next generation part. In fact, it is often compared to Intel’s Prescott, which was a larger chip on a smaller process than the previous Northwood processor, but did not outperform the earlier part in any meaningful way (except in heat production). The difference between Intel and AMD in this aspect is that as compared to Prescott, Bulldozer as an entirely new architecture as compared to the Prescott/Northwood lineage. AMD has radically changed the way it designs processors. Taking some lessons from the graphics arm of the company and their successful Radeon brand, AMD is applying that train of thought to processors.
Get Out the Microscope
AMD announced their Q1 2012 earnings last week, which turned out better than the previous numbers suggested. The bad news is that they posted a net loss of $590 million. That does sound pretty bad considering that their gross revenue was $1.59 billion, but there is more to the story than meets the eye. Of course, there are thoughts of “those spendthrift executives are burying AMD again”, but this is not the case. The loss lays squarely on the GLOBALFOUNDRIES equity and wafer agreements that have totally been retooled.
To get a good idea of where AMD stands in Q1, and for the rest of this year, we need to see how all these numbers actually get sorted out. Gross revenue is down 6% from the quarter before, which is expected due to seasonal pressures. This is right in line with Intel’s seasonal downturn, and in ways AMD was affected slightly less than their larger competitor. They are down around 2% from last year’s quarter, and part of that can be attributed to the continuing hard drive shortage that continued to affect the previous quarter.
More MHz for the Masses
AMD has had a rough time of it lately when it comes to CPUs. Early last year when we saw the performance of the low power Bobcat architecture, we thought 2011 would be a breakout year for AMD. Bulldozer was on the horizon and it promised performance a step above what Intel could offer. This harkened back to the heady days of the original Athlon and Athlon 64 where AMD held a performance advantage over all of Intel’s parts. On the graphics side AMD had just released the 6000 series of chips, all of which came close in performance to NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture, but had a decided advantage in terms of die size and power consumption. Then the doubts started to roll in around the April timeframe. Whispers hinted that Bulldozer was delayed, and not only was it delayed it was not meeting performance expectations.
The introduction of the first Llano products did not help things. The “improved” CPU performance was less than expected, even though the GPU portion was class leading. The manufacturing issues we saw with Llano did not bode well for AMD or the upcoming Bulldozer products. GLOBALFOUNDRIES was simply not able to achieve good yields on these new 32 nm products. Then of course the hammer struck. Bulldozer was released, well behind schedule, and with performance that barely rose above that of the previous Phenom II series of chips. The top end FX-8150 was competitive with the previous Phenom II X6 1100T, but it paled in comparison to the Intel i7 2600 which was right around the same price range.
Subject: Processors | April 3, 2012 - 12:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: virtualization, ubuntu 12.04, Sandy Bridge E, Intel, FX 8150, Core i7 3960X, bulldozer, amd
Phoronix is taking the latest Ubuntu release and testing the performance on AMD's FX 8150 against Intel's Core-i7 3960X to see their relative performance in a virtual environment. Both machines had issues, Xen had critical issues which prevented it from running on the Bulldozer and ASUS motherboard system, while the Sandy Bridge chip had issues with Virtualbox. The testing was not so much a comparison of the performance difference between the two chips as it is a test of efficiency of these processors running tasks when virtualized. As both chips averaged 90%+ of base performance when virtualized you can see that both architectures have come a long way in this particular usage.
Also, keep your eyes out for a CPU review from Josh which should be arriving soon.
"With the upcoming availability of Ubuntu 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" being a Long-Term Support (LTS) release that will be quickly making its way into many enterprise environments, here's a look at the virtualization performance of this popular Linux distribution. In particular, being looked at is the Linux virtualization performance of KVM, Xen, and Oracle VirtualBox compared to bare metal when using Intel Sandy Bridge Extreme and AMD Bulldozer hardware."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Xeon E5 2600: Interview with Intel IT's Ajay Chandramouly @ TechSpot
- Intel To Launch Ivy Bridge Desktop Processors This Week @ TechARP
- Mobile CPU Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- Intel Ivy Bridge Overclocking with the Core i7 3770K and Core i5 3570K CPUs @ Tweaktown
- AMD A8-3870 FM1 CPU @ Rbmods
Subject: Processors | February 28, 2012 - 12:51 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: trinity, FX-8120, FX-6200, FX-4170, FX, FM3, bulldozer, amd, am3+
Since AMD held their Analysts’ Day, we have not heard a whole bunch from their CPU division. The graphics side has been in full gear launching the HD 7000 series of products, and soon we will see the final pieces of that particular puzzle fall into place. What about the CPU group? We have heard about Trinity for ages now, but that particular launch is still months away. The last CPU update detailed the “K” series of unlocked Llano chips. What about Bulldozer? Is there a new stepping? How is GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 32 nm SOI/HKMG progressing?
I don’t have all those answers, unfortunately. Since AMD proceeded to sack most of the PR team, our contacts have all but disappeared. Questions emailed to AMD are often not returned. Requests for CPU information (or samples) are ignored. Are these people just simply overworked, or is AMD clamping down on information? Hard to say. My guess here is that they are taking the philosophy of, “No news is good news.” If a company does not send out review samples, they do not have to deal with products receiving bad reviews. I am not saying that the FX processors are necessarily bad, but they do not match up well against Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge parts. At least AMD parts are priced appropriately overall for their level of performance. If we look at overall results, the FX-8150 does match up fairly well with the i5-2500K, and they both exist very close to each other in price points.
What we do know is that AMD has released two new processors into the market with the FX-4170 and the FX-6200. The FX-4170 is a new dual module (four core) 125 watt TDP part that is clocked at an amazing 4.2 GHz stock speed, and a turbo that goes to 4.3 GHz. This is the fastest consumer grade processor in terms of clockspeed, but it obviously is not the fastest processor on Earth. The original FX-4100 is a 95 watt TDP part at 3.6 GHz stock/3.8 GHz turbo, 4 MB L2 cache, and 8 MB of L3. The FX-6200 is perhaps the more interesting of the two. It has a base clock of 3.8 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.1 GHz. This is a pretty hefty increase from the FX-6100 with its base 3.3 GHz and 3.9 GHz turbo. The 6100 is a 95 watt TDP part while the new 6200 is 125 watt TDP. The 6200 is a three module (six core) part with 6 MB of L2 cache and 8 MB of L3.
The last bit of news is that the FX-8120 is getting a price cut to put it more in line against the competition. The email that we received about this and the previous announcements was amazingly generic and fairly uninformative. We do not know the prices, we do not know the rollout schedule, and we have no idea how much the FX-8120 is going to be chopped. We have seen the retail market already cut the prices down on the FX-8xxx series. The high end FX-8150 was introduced around $289 but now it can be readily available for $259. Now that demand has dropped in the PC sector and AMD’s supply has caught up, it is no wonder we are seeing new SKUs and the lowering of prices.
My goal is to try to get a hold of some of these parts, as they do look interesting from a value standpoint. The FX-6200 is of great interest for many users due to the nice provisioning of cores, L3 caches, and speeds. Throw in a decent price for this particular product, and it could be a favorite for budget enthusiasts who want to stick with AMD products. The area where it does fall down is that of TDP when compared to Intel’s Sandy Bridge parts at that price point. The jump to 3.8 GHz base speed and 4.1 GHz turbo should make it very comparable in stock clocked performance to anything Intel has in that price range.
Overclocking could be interesting here, but since it is already a 125 watt TDP part I do not know how much headroom these products have. 4.8 GHz is very likely, but on air cooling I would not expect overclocked speeds to reach much more above that. Still, these are interesting parts and give plenty of bang for their price. Add in pretty mature support for AM3+ motherboards, and AMD still has a chance with enthusiasts. The only real issue that is looming is PCI-E 3.0 support for the AM3+ ecosystem. We have not heard anything about the upcoming (or is it cancelled?) 1090FX chipset, other than it is based on 890FX/990FX and should not support PCI-E 3.0. With AMD’s push for APUs, I would expect the upcoming Trinity parts to introduce PCI-E 3.0. AMD also looks like they will start funneling the enthusiasts towards FM2 platforms and Trinity based parts. While AMD looks to support AM3+ with Piledriver based cores, my best guess here is that AM3+ will be phased out sooner rather than later.
The next 6 months will be critical for AMD and their path moving forwards. At the very least we will have a better idea of where the company is going under the new management. I am still expecting some big changes from AMD, and if Trinity can give Intel a run for its money in terms of per clock CPU performance, then they could have a winner on their hands and adjust their roadmap to further exploit that particular product release.