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: Editorial, Storage | October 24, 2012 - 08:26 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: hybrid, fusion drive, fusion, apple
Dubbed 'Fusion Drive', this tech enables the late 2012 Mac Mini and iMac models to have a pseudo-hybrid drive. There's been a lot of speculation today on just how this technology will work, but I've cut through the chaff to try and shed some proper light on just how this new thing works, and how it is so different than any other 'hybrid' solution out there.
First, it's not a hybrid drive. The iMac or Mac Mini comes with an SSD and a HDD. Two individual SATA devices. Both devices appear as individual drives, even in Disk Utility. Where the magic happens is that OSX can be configured (and is pre-configured in these new systems) to combine the two drives into one drive that presents itself to the user as a single logical volume. The important point is that the drives are 'fused' together, not merged or mirrored. The SSD and HDD each have their own partition, and OSX can reach beneath the Fusion layer and shift files back and forth between the two as it sees fit. Frequently used apps and files can be shifted back and forth between the SSD and HDD, as seen in the below pic:
The biggest differences are in that since it's not a mirrored hybrid solution, where the SSD space is not available, and a failure of the HDD causes loss of all data. Fusion Drive combines the two volumes and *adds* the space together, and the apps or files will sit on either device (but not both). All files written go to the SSD first and are later shifted to the HDD in the background. This is actually a very smart way to handle things. The entire OSX install always stays on the SSD, so there is no concern of OS files 'rolling off' of the SSD cache, causing intermittent slowdowns. More (perhaps most) importantly, if the HDD fails on a Fusion Drive setup, OSX should theoretically just keep on chugging, albeit without access to the files or apps that were stored on the HDD. On the flip side, if the SSD were to fail, the HDD could simply be mounted in Target Mode under another Mac, and all files stored to that drive could then be recovered. Sure you won't get everything back in these scenarios, but it provides *much* more flexibility for data recovery, and it's worth repeating the fact that an HDD failure in any other hybrid solution results in the loss of ALL data.
A couple of other quick gotchas: You can still dual boot with boot camp under a Fusion Drive setup, but the boot camp partition will only be at the end of the HDD, not on the SSD. Windows will not only run slower because it's on the spinning disk, it will run slower because the latter portions of a HDD typically see about half of the throughput as compared to the start of that disk. Also, you are only allowed *one* additional (non-Fusion) partition on the HDD, which can be used for another OSX install *or* for the Boot Camp Windows install. Users who prefer to boot greater than two operating systems on their newer Mac will have to do so with Fusion Drive disabled.
More to follow as more data comes in. For now I'm only working off of the other speculation and the Apple Support Page on the matter.
Subject: Motherboards | September 10, 2012 - 09:29 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mini-itx, htpc, fusion, biostar, APU, amd, a68i-350 deluxe, a68
While Intel has gotten a lot of Mini-ITX love lately, AMD is not out of the game yet. Motherboard manufacturer Biostar recently launched an AMD Fusion APU powered Mini-ITX motherboard that would make for a nice little HTPC. The A68I-350 Deluxe is based around some of the latest technologies including support for DDR3, PCI-E 3.0, and USB 3.0 standards.
The A68I-350 Deluxe motherboard measures 17 cm x 17 cm and comes with a bundled dual core AMD Fusion 350D APU. A heatsink and passive cooling for the south bridge are also provided in the package. The graphics card, memory, storage and other accessories are up to you, however. The Mini-ITX board features two DDR3 DIMM slots that support a maximum of 16 GB. Located in the lower right-hand corner are three SATA 3 6Gbps ports. Below that is a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot for a graphics card or other peripheral. Additional internal IO includes:
- 1 x printer header
- 2 x USB 2.0 header
- 1 X front panel audio
- 1 X front panel header (hdd, power, reset, ect)
- 1 x S/PDIF-OUT header
- 1 x CPU fan header
- 1 x system fan header
- 1 x serial header
According to Biostar, the motherboard also uses all solid capacitors to improve longevity.
Rear IO on the board is not quite as extensive as some of the other offerings available, but is still fairly good for the price. It features two PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, one HDMI out, one VGA output, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, one Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8111F Gigabit controller), and three audio output jacks (Realtek ALC662 6-channel HD audio).
The AMD APU that comes with the A68I-350 Deluxe features Radeon 6310 graphics, which are not the fastest but will still provide plenty of oomph for watching videos on the big screen. While it has not yet shown up at online retailers like Amazon and Newegg yet, it is reportedly already shipping and will have an MSRP of € 66 (euros) or approximately $84 USD. Considering the Intel options that have recently surfaced are going for $100+ easily, this Biostar motherboard should provide a nice budget option for your next HTPC or small form factor PC build!
You can find more information on the A68I-350 Deluxe over at the Biostar website.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Shows and Expos | June 7, 2012 - 06:49 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: hsa, fusion, amd, AFDS
One of the best show experiences I had last year was a surprise to me - AMD's first annual Fusion Developer Summit (AFDS) was hosted in the Seattle / Bellevue area. I say that it was a surprise only because the inaugural year for vendor-specific shows like this tend to be pretty bland and lack interesting information, but that wasn't the case in 2011. We saw ARM get on stage with AMD to talk about the idea of "dark silicon" and how to prevent it, we saw the first AMD Trinity notebook and even got details of the Tahiti GPU architecture well ahead of release.
We expect even better things in 2012.
While I don't know exactly what surprises will be on display this year I am looking forward to seeing the improvement from software developers after having another 12 months to work on APU-accelerated applications. HSA (heterogeneous system architecture) has been getting a lot of buzz from AMD and the industry as we push towards a combined memory address space and the ultimate acceleration of programs across both serialized and parallel processors on the same die.
If you are in the Seattle / Bellevue area and you have the ability to attend AFDS, I would highly encourage you to do so. You'll have access to:
- Never before seen demos
- Technical tracks and sessions to learn about HSA and programming for it
If you can't make it though, you should definitely follow the whole event right here at PC Perspective - the easiest way is to keep track of our AFDS tag to make sure you don't miss any of the potentially industry shifting news!
You can also expect us to have a live blog from the event as well!
Introduction and Specifications
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.
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.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | November 15, 2011 - 05:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
Introduction and Specifications
Courtesy of ECS
ECS developed the HDC-I motherboard to take advantage of AMD's new Brazos platform that's based on the Hudson M1 chipset and their latest E-350 dual-core processor and integrated DDR3 800/1066 memory controller. The dual-core E-350 APU, which combines the CPU and GPU, brings a host of features to mini ITX enthusiasts like USB 3.0 compability, SATA 6Gb/s support, bluetooth and Radeon HD 6310 graphics and UVD 3 to play 3D Blu-ray and HD-1080P movies.
Courtesy of ECS
Another huge advantage of going with a mini ITX motherboard for your next home theater PC is the balance of computing power and power consumption that the AMD Brazos platform adds to the ECS HDC-I. The HDC-I is an energy-efficient motherboard that has integrated computing power and graphics firepower for users looking for an "all-in-one" solution for their next small form factor build.
Subject: Processors | August 22, 2011 - 10:53 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mobile, fusion, E-Series, APU, amd
AMD today announced three new Accelerated Processing Units (APU) to bolster up the mobile lineup. Specifically, two new E-Series and one new C-Series APU are inserting themselves into the lineup. The new chips bring enhanced graphic capabilities, HDMI 1.4a, and DDR3 1333 support. "Today's PC users want stunning HD graphics and accelerated performance with all-day battery life and that's what AMD Fusion APUs deliver," said Chris Cloran, vice president and general manager, Client Division, AMD.
According to MaximumPC, the new E-450 APU takes the top slot, bringing two CPU cores clocked at 1.65GHz, a Radeon HD 6320 GPU clocked at a base of 508MHz and maximum of 600MHz, and a power sipping TDP of 18 watts. The second new E-Series APU carries the same 18 watt TDP and dual CPU cores as the E-450; however, it is clocked at a lower 1.3GHz. Further, the chip’s Radeon HD 6310 GPU is clocked at 488MHz. The new E-Series APUs feature battery life increases to the tune of up to 10.5 hours of Windows idle time.
The new C-Series APU is the C-60, and is a 1GHz dual core chip with a Radeon HD 6290 GPU. The APU is able to turbo its CPU cores to a maximum of 1.33GHz, while the GPU has a base clock of 276MHz and a maximum clock speed of 400MHz. Further, the chip has a 9 watt TDP, and boasts 12.25 hours of “resting battery life,” which AMD benchmarked using Windows Idle on a C-60 based netbook.
Currently, AMD has shipped more than 12 million APUs, and more than five million of the C-Series and E-Series processors in Q2 2011. More information on the specific benchmarking metrics AMD used can be found here.
Subject: Motherboards | July 21, 2011 - 11:25 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sapphire, motherboard, fusion, APU, amd
Sapphire Technologies, most popular for their line of AMD discrete graphics cards, has recently unveiled a new ATX motherboard supporting AMD’s A-Series APUs. Dubbed the Sapphire Pure Platinum A75, the board supports the latest interface standards including SATA 3 6Gbps, USB 3.0, PCI-E 2, and USB 2.0. Further, the board supports Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth, and four dual channel memory sockets.
The Pure Platinum A75 motherboard is a full ATX affair that is chock full of expansion slots. Four dual channel DIMM slots for DDR3 memory, two PCI-E 2 x1 slots, one PCI-E 2 x4 slot, one PCI-E 2 x16 slot, and two PCI slots along the bottom of the board. On the storage front, the motherboard contains five SATA 3 6Gbps ports with ACHI and RAID support and a single SATA 2 3Gbps port that is connected to the rear header and is used as an eSATA connection.
Other features of the board include Dual Graphics support when the APU is paired with a AMD HD 6600 or HD 6500 series for a boost in graphics performance by using both the discrete card and APU together. A single digital debug display, push buttons for resetting the BIOS, starting, and restarting the system, Dual BIOS support, and voltage test pads that allow voltage readings of the APU and memory circuits. Further, the motherboard uses gold plated connectors on the USB 3.0 and LAN ports in addition to solid capacitors and Sapphire Diamond Black chokes in the VRM area.
Rear IO of the board includes Display Port, DVI, HDMI, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR antenna, one eSATA port, and one PS/2 keyboard/mouse combination port. The board also included the standard fair of audio ports, supporting up to 7.1 audio.
According to Sapphire, the board is currently in production and will be available through the usual channel partners and retailers. You can check out more photos of the motherboard here.
PC Perspective Podcast #159 - AMD Llano Notebook Platform, AMD Fusion platform architecture, X79 Rumors, the deal about BAPCo and more!
Subject: General Tech | June 23, 2011 - 02:39 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: x79, podcast, nvidia, llano, Intel, fusion, APU, amd
PC Perspective Podcast #159 - 6/23/2011
This week we talk about the AMD Llano Notebook Platform, AMD Fusion platform architecture, X79 Rumors, the deal about BAPCo and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath and Allyn Malventano
This Podcast is brought to you by
- 0:00:30 Introduction
- 1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
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- 0:01:50 AMD A-Series Llano APU Sabine Notebook Platform Review
- 0:05:00 AMD Fusion System Architecture Overview - Southern Isle GPUs and Beyond
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- 0:34:00 AFDS11: AMD Demonstrates Trinity Powered Notebook
- 0:35:45 AFDS11: ARM Talks Dark Silicon and Computing Bias at Fusion Summit
- 0:41:30 AFDS11: Microsoft Announces C++ AMP, Competitor to OpenCL
- 0:45:45 New Rumor Indicates X79 Chipset Will Support Both 1366 and 2011 Sockets
- 0:49:49 Microsoft is probably laughing as AMD speculates the unlikelihood of Intel buying NVIDIA
- 0:54:45 Larrabee rides again, almost ... meet Knights Corner the new Many Integrated Core design
- 0:58:35 What's the big deal with BAPCo? Why Benchmarking Matters
- 1:05:20 Crysis 2: Cry Harder (with DX11 and High Res textures)
- 1:06:00 *Allyn Show and Tell*
- 1:12:45 Quakecon Reminder - http://www.quakecon.org/
- 1:13:17 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
- 1:25:45 Closing
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