Subject: Processors | May 8, 2012 - 05:30 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultrathins, trinity, piledriver, mobile, APU, amd
Last week we detailed the changes and improvements in AMD’s upcoming Trinity Accelerated Processing Units (APU). Today, DigiTimes has confirmed that Trinity will be released later this month. The only catch is that the company is only releasing the mobile Trinity chips in May. The higher end, and higher TDP, parts will not be released until August 2012.
A Trinity APU die next to a USB flash drive
According to their sources, AMD will be pricing the mobile Trinity chips very aggressively. They will offer a cheaper alternative to OEMs as AMD based ultrathins compared to an Ivy Bridge based ultabrook notebook. The low power Trinity chips will have vastly superior GPU execution units, though Ivy Bridge may retain the CPU performance crown. Both chips are able to sip voltage and have low TDPs so it will be interesting to see the results of battery life tests once the chips and notebooks are released and are in the hands of reviewers.
Trinity desktop parts are scheduled for release in August, including the A10-5800K, A10-5700, A8-5600K, and A8-5500. They are also planning lower end A6 and A4 series Trinity APUs.
Beyond Trinity, their sources have indicated that AMD will release very low power Brazos 2.0 processors for ultrathins and Windows 8 tablets that have 18W TDPs in June 2012. Vishera–Piledriver architecture, AM3+ socket–FX series desktop CPUs (no iGPU) will be released sometime in the third quarter of this year (Q3 2012). The FX and Brazos processors include the FX-8350, FX-6300, FX-4320, and the E2-1800 and E1-1200 respectively.
While AMD may not have the lowest manufacturing process, are seemingly dropping employees like flies, and had a huge financial loss due to buying themselves out of GlobalFoundries they are still hanging in there and delivering competitive products for the low to mid-range markets.
Subject: Processors | May 4, 2012 - 02:11 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: trinity, piledriver, llnao, fm2, APU, AMD A series
EXP Review has managed to get their hands on a set of AMD slides containing information on one of the company’s upcoming processor lines. The Llano successor, known as Trinity, is a new APU due out later this year that is said to bring increases in performance thanks to several architectural enhancements.
A Trinity APU die sitting next to a USB flash drive
Llano is AMD’s currently available Accelerated Processing Unit, or APU. The chips combine updated “Stars” mobile Phenom II CPU cores and Radeon 6000 series graphics cores into a single package. Further, the APUs contain a PCI-E 2.0 controller, integrated memory controller, and UVD3 hardware video decoding units. Some models also support AMD’s Turbo Core and Hybrid Graphics Technology which allow them to automatically boost CPU clockspeeds when lower GPU usage leaves TDP headroom, and to pair with a discrete Radeon HD 6450, 6570, or 6670 GPU in a Crossfire-like configuration. Built on a 32nm silicon on insulator (SOI) manufacturing process by GlobalFoundries, the APUs employ 1.45 billion transistors and have a die size of 228mm2 for the desktop versions. Desktop parts have TDPs of 65 watts or 100 watts depending on the particular chip and connect to the motherboards using the FM1 socket (which was a new socket for AMD, it has 905 contacts). There are both desktop and mobile Llano parts, though they are essentially the same chips. The mobile parts are scaled down desktop Llano chips that run at lower clockspeeds, top out DDR3 support at 1600MHz (versus DDR3 1866MHz on the desktop parts), have lower TDPs of either 35W or 45W, and use a slightly different socket (FS1).
In our review, and what many other users noted, is that Llano’s CPU performance really left something to be desired. Fortunately for AMD, the GPU portion of the chip delivered on performance and made the APU desirable for certain niches. The low power chips had a place in home theater PCs (HTPCs), cheap desktops, and even budget gaming rigs to an extent. Still, the CPU performance really held Llano back in terms of popularity and adoption among enthusiasts.
Llano APU in action during overclocking and gaming tests.
The upcoming Trinity processors bring quite a few enhancements to the table, foremost of which is a revamped CPU part that ditches the old Phenom II processor cores in favor of updated Piledriver architecture CPU modules. The move to the Piledriver x86 cores promises an increase in IPC, leakage reduction, CAC reduction, and increased clockspeeds according to the leaked slides, but the most important change is the increased performance per clock numbers. The Trinity APUs are set to replace the A8–or performance series of–Llano APUs with quad core Trinity processors that utilize two Piledriver modules that each share 2MB cache for 4MB of total L2 cache. In that respect, Trinity will be similar to Llano in that it does not employ any L3 cache that is shared between the CPU and GPU cores. Interestingly, that may mean that using higher clocked RAM can improve performance on Trinity just as it did with Llano. If true, that would make Trinity’s improved DDR3 support–up to DDR3 2133MHz– all the better. On the GPU side of things, Trinity moves to a “Northern Islands” VLIW4 architecture with up to 384 stream processing units. Although the GPU area is physically smaller, it is said to be more efficient than the GPU cores in Llano APUs. The new GPU core is DirectX 11 and OpenCL 1.1 compliant. Also, it includes an updated hardware tessellator engine and hardware encoding unit (AMD Accelerated Video Converter).
Trinity will continue to offer 65W and 100W TDPs as well as a 35W part. The TDPs are the same as those in Llano, but AMD has managed to lower the voltages needed to run Trinity out of the box. Also, AMD is claiming the new Trinity chips will sip power at idle–as low as 1.08 watts.
Trinity also ratchets up the automatic overclocking with Turbo Core 3 support which can boost the CPU clockspeed up to 19% or the GPU clockspeed up to 20% above stock clocks. Even better, the APU is able to allocate power to either the GPU or CPU depending on which area needs the boost and how much TDP headroom the chip has when doing certain tasks. For example, AMD shows that the A10-4600M APU can downclock the GPU from the default clockspeed of 685MHz to 496MHz, allowing the x86 Piledriver cores to achieve up to a 900MHz overclock at a clockspeed of 3.2GHz. Alternatively, when the GPU is needed, it can run at 685MHz while the CPU sits at 2.3GHz. They are likely not able to push the GPU much further as any more reductions in CPU speeds would need to be much bigger than any accompanying GPU increases. And at that point, the GPU would likely become bottlenecked and the system would be starved of too much CPU power anyway.
The Trinity APUs continue to be based on GlobalFoundries’ 32nm SOI manufacturing process, but this time the chips are slightly larger with a die size of 246mm^2. Although the APU is wholly larger than Llano, they actually have fewer transistors at 1.303 billion versus the 1.45 billion in Llano. Although that may seem like a step in the wrong direction, the new CPU modules and GPU cores are much more efficient than those in Llano so it should all balance out and Trinity should come out on top despite the lower transistor count. The Trinity APUs will also feature an improved instruction set that includes AVX, AVX1.1, FMA3, AES, and F16C which should help the CPU in certain tasks.
Overall, Trinity is looking like an improved part versus Llano, especially in the CPU department. Although AMD’s numbers should be taken with more than a grain of salt, they are claiming 26% better desktop system performance as a result of the CPU overhaul. Granted, Bulldozer was not a CPU powerhouse itself when compared to the competition, but it is–at least on paper–a good design. When paired with a relatively good GPU, as is the case of Trinity, the Piledriver [architecture based] (a refined version of the Bulldozer architecture with some under-the-hood tweaks) cores should at the least not hold the GPU back, and at best make the CPU processor performance good enough to make the Trinity APU all the more desirable to an even wider range of potential buyers. Pricing of the new APUs is still up in the air, but they are set to release later this month if a certain leak is to be believed.
I think that we can expect to see an all around better chip with Trinity, though pricing will be the ultimate factor in determining how popular it is. I suspect that Intel will still carry the CPU crown, but if the price is right, AMD can sell a lot of Trinity chips to builders that only need decent CPUs to support good integrated GPU cores in systems where the GPU is more important. I am anxiously awaiting reviews of the new Trinity chips and hoping that AMD continues to have successful chips with their line of APUs.
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.
Subject: Editorial | April 23, 2012 - 05:12 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: trinity, Q1, Ivy Bridge, Intel, earnings, atom, arm, amd, 2012
Guess what? Intel made money. A lot of money. This is not surprising. The results were not record breaking, but they did beat expectations. Intel had a gross revenue of $12.9 billion for the quarter, with a net income of $2.7 billion. Gross margins decreased (slightly) to 64%, but the reasons for this are pretty logical as we discover down below. Compared to Q4 2011, results are still significantly down, but this is again expected due to seasonal downturns. In Q4 they had $13.9 billion in gross revenue and $3.4 billion in net income with a gross margin of 64.5%.
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 | 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.
Subject: General Tech | February 3, 2012 - 12:13 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ultrabook, amd, Financial Analyst Day, trinity
While Intel struggles to find a away to reduce costs to hit their self imposed $1000 limit on the price for ultrabooks without comprimising the quality of the machine, AMD is leveraging an old strength and a new one. The old strength is familiar to any long time PC fan, AMD's chips are less expensive than Intel's which gives them some nice monetary leeway when creating low cost systems. The new strength is Trinity, the next generation Llano, and the impressive graphics performance packaged in the same substrate and the smooth way it can integrate with a discreet GPU to give desktop like performance.
One of the benefits Trinity will bring is what AMD called 'All day' battery life, with a 12 hour lifespan predicted. Trinity uses half the power of Llano as well as featuring an improved graphics core which they predict to be half again as powerful as Intel's HD Graphics. They also predict the new Bulldozer architecture will increase general computing power. Check out the slides at SemiAccurate for more information.
"Much has been said about Intel’s new Ultrabook form factor. But new details from AMD’s Financial Analyst Day are radically changing the prospective competitive landscape that 2012 has to offer. During Intel’s Q3 conference call certain Intel executives were confident that AMD would always be offering a lower cost alternative to Intel products. But it seems that thing are not turning out the way that the cunning marketeers behind Intel’s “visibly smart” 2nd generation Core processors had hoped."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- More details about some new AMD cores @ SemiAccurate
- AMD sets out its plans for 2013, hints at a possible ARM future @ Ars Technica
- Motherboard prices to hike by 10% at end of 1Q12 @ DigiTimes
- Understanding AMD's Roadmap & New Direction @ AnandTech
- Intel promotes two executives to senior vice president @ DigiTimes
- AMD doubles down on existing Opteron server sockets @ The Register
- Ubuntu 12.04 ARM Performance Becomes Very Compelling @ Phoronix
- David vs Goliath: Can AMD Stand and Fight? @ Hi Tech Legion
AMD Gives a Glimpse of the Near Future
AMD has released an updated roadmap for these next two years, and the information contained within is quite revealing of where AMD is going and how they are shifting their lineup to be less dependent on a single manufacturer. The Financial Analyst Day has brought a few surprises of where AMD is headed, and how they will get there. Rory Read and Mark Papermaster have brought a new level of energy to the company that seemingly has been either absent or muted. Sometimes a new set of eyes on a problem, or in this case the attitudes and culture of a company, can bring about significant changes for the positive. From what we have seen so far from Rory and company is a new energy and direction for AMD. While AMD is still sticking to their roots, they are looking to further expand upon their expertise in some areas, all the while being flexible enough to license products from other companies that are far enough away from AMD's core competence that it pays to license rather than force engineers to re-invent the wheel.
The roadmaps cover graphics, desktop, mobile, and server products through 2013.
This first slide is a snapshot of the current and upcoming APU lineup. Southern Islands is the codename for the recently released HD 7000 series of desktop parts. This will cover products from the 7700 level on up to the top end 7990. Of great interest are the Brazos 2.0 and Hondo chips. AMD had cancelled the "Krishna" series of chips which would have been based on Bobcat cores up to 4 on 28 nm. Details are still pending, but it seems Brazos 2.0 will still be 40 nm parts but much more refined so they can be clocked higher and still pull less power. Hondo looks to be the basic Brazos core, but for Ultra Low Power (lower clocks, possibly disabled units, etc.) which would presumably scale to 5 watts and possibly lower.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | February 2, 2012 - 02:02 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, trinity, hsa, ultrabook, ultrathin
Today at the AMD Financial Analyst day in Sunnyvale, Lisa Su, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Global Business Units, showed off a reference design from Compal of an 18mm think ultrathin notebook that they are obviously hoping to compete with Intel's Ultrabook push.
The notebook is based on AMD's upcoming Trinity APU that improves on the CPU and GPU performance of the currently available Llano APU. There weren't many details though Su did state they were hoping for prices in the $600-800 range would could but a lot of pressure on Intel.
Q4-2012 In a Nutshell
Tis the reporting season. Yes, that time of year when some of the major players in the computing world get together and tell us all how well they did this past quarter. Ok, so they do not necessarily get together to announce results, but they sure time them that way. Today was AMD’s turn (and Apple’s), and the results were not nearly as positive as what Intel had to offer a few days ago.
Q4 2011 was flat in terms of revenue as compared to Q3. The company had gross revenue of $1.69 billion and had a net income loss of $177 million. That net income is not necessarily a bad result, but more on that later. Margins rose to 46%, which is still a far cry from Intel’s 65% for the past quarter. Gross revenue was up 2% from last year, which considering the marketplace and Intel’s dominance, is a solid win for AMD.
When we start talking about non-GAAP results, AMD had a net income of $138 million. The difference between those two numbers (a loss vs. a nice profit) is that the loss came from one time writeoffs. AMD has lowered its stake in GLOBALFOUNDRIES to 8.8%, and in so doing incurred a hefty charge. This is not so much money lost as it is lost value in the company.