Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 25, 2017 - 10:43 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: ryzen, noctua, low-profile, htpc, cooler, APU, amd, AM4, air cooling
AMD's popularity with Ryzen CPUs (and upcoming APUs) has made waves across the industry, and Noctua have jumped in with a pair of low-profile offerings that update previous designs for cramped case interiors.
First up is the new version of the NH-L9a:
"The new NH-L9a-AM4 is an AM4-specific revision of Noctua’s award-winning NH-L9a low-profile CPU cooler. At a height of only 37mm, the NH-L9a is ideal for extremely slim cases and, due to its small footprint, it provides 100% RAM and PCIe compatibility as well as easy access to near-socket connectors, even on tightly packed mini-ITX motherboards."
Next is the new NH-L12S:
"The new S-version of the renowned NH-L12 not only adds AM4 support but also gives more flexibility and improved performance in low-profile mode. Thanks to the new NF-A12x15 PWM slim 120mm fan, the NH-L12S provides even better cooling than the previous model with its 92mm fan. At the same time, the NH-L12S is highly versatile: with the fan installed on top of the fins, the cooler is compatible with RAM modules of up to 45mm in height. With the fan installed underneath the fins, the total height of the cooler is only 70mm, making it suitable for use in many compact cases."
Noctua says that these new coolers now shipping "and will be available shortly", with an MSRP of $39.90 for the NH-L9a-AM4 and $49 for the NH-L12S.
Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2017 - 03:32 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Zen, Vega, ryzen 5, ryzen, raven ridge, APU, amd
Back in May AMD made Ryzen Mobile official indicating that the APUs previously known as "Raven Ridge" would be launching in the second half of 2017. As that launch window closes, more details are starting to trickle out including benchmarks scores. The latest appearance of Raven Ridge is in a Geekbench benchmark score results page where a "Ryzen 5 2500U" APU achieves a single core score of 3,561 and a multi-core score of 9,421. These are fairly impressive results on their own, but especially considering that Ryzen Mobile chips are reportedly using up to 50% less power versus last generation Bristol Ridge processors while handily beating them in performance offered.
AMD has previously claimed that its Ryzen Mobile (Raven Ridge) APUs will offer up to 50% more CPU performance and 40% more GPU performance compared to its 7th Generation APUs. The leaked Geekbench scores seem to back up those claims (for the most part) with the Ryzen 5 2500U scoring slightly above 36% better single core performance and 48% better multi-core performance compared to the AMD A12-9800 APU with the latter being due primarily to the addition of SMT to the processor design allowing for twice the number of CPU threads (eight total). The performance improvements are also due to the move from Excavator to a Zen-based design on a smaller more power efficient process node. What is most impressive about this mobile part is that it is that much faster than a 65W quad core (4 core / 4 thread) desktop Bristol Ridge APU clocked at 3.8 GHz base and 4.2 GHz boost while using approximately half the power!
The Geekbench benchmark is only one data point, but is still a positive sign. One thing it does not reveal is clockspeed as while it lists 2.0 GHz that number is likely only the base and not the maximum boost frequency. Further, details on the Vega-based GPU are still unknown although the Infinity Fabric should help tremendously in reducing the bottleneck and keeping the on die GPU fed with data while gaming especially when paired with fast dual channel memory or HBM (I just hope that Ryzen Mobile is not held back like previous generation mobile APUs were with laptop manufacturers pairing them with single channel memory setups). We also do not know officially the number of stream processors that will be included in any of the Vega GPUs used in Ryzen Mobile with past rumors going up to 1024 SPs (mobile parts will likely be capped at 512 or 768 at the extreme). AMD claims that Ryzen Mobile will offer up to 40% more GPU performance, which to me suggests that we will possibly see higher GPU core counts but for the most part performance improvements are going to come from architecture improvements.
Subject: Processors | May 18, 2017 - 01:01 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Zen, Vega, ryzen mobile, ryzen, raven ridge, APU, amd
AMD teased its upcoming Zen-based APUs aimed at mobile devices during its Financial Analyst Day where the company revealed the "Raven Ridge" parts will be aptly known as Ryzen Mobile. The Tech Report managed to acquire a couple slides which confirm some of the broader specifications and reveal how they stack up to AMD's latest Bristol Ridge A-Series APUs – at least as far as AMD's internal testing is concerned (which is to say not independently verified yet so take with a grain of salt).
Ryzen Mobile appears to be the new consumer-facing brand name for what has so far been code named "Raven Ridge". These parts will use a Zen-based CPU, Vega GPU, and integrated chipset. Thanks to the slides, it is now confirmed that the Vega-based graphics processor will be on-die. What has not been confirmed is whether the chipset will be on die or on package and exact specifications on CPU cores counts, GPU Compute Units, cache, memory support, and I/O like PCI-E lanes (you know, all the good stuff! heh). Note that rumors so far point towards Raven Ridge / Ryzen Mobile utilizing a single 4-core (8-thread) CCX, per core L2, 8MB shared L3 cache, and a Vega-based GPU with 1024 cores. HBM2 has also been rumored for awhile but we will have to wait for more leaks and/or an official announcement to know for sure if these Ryzen Mobile parts aimed for the second half of 2017 will have that (hopefully!).
With that said, according to AMD, Ryzen Mobile will offer up to 50% better CPU performance, 40% better GPU performance, and will use up to 50% less power than the previous 7th generation (Excavator-based) A-Series APUs (e.g. FX 9830P and A12-9730P). Those are some pretty bold claims, but still within the realm of possibility. Zen and Vega are both much more efficient architectures and AMD is also benefiting from a smaller process node (TSMC 28nm vs Samsung / GlobalFoundries 14nm FinFET). I do wonder how high the APUs will be able to clock on the CPU side of things with 4 GHz seeming to be the wall for most Zen-based Summit Ridge chips, so most of the CPU performance improvement claims will have to come from architecture changes rather than increases in clockspeeds (the highest clocked A-Series Bristol Ridge ran at up to 3.7 GHz and I would expect Raven Ridge to be around that, maybe the flagship part turbo-ing a bit more). Raven Ridge will benefit from the shared L3 cache and, more importantly, twice as many threads (4 vs 8) and this may be where AMD is primarily getting that 50% more CPU performance number from. On the graphics side of things, it looks like Bristol Ridge with its R7 graphics (GCN 3 (Tonga/Fiji on the Desktop)) had up to 512 cores. Again, taking the rumors into account which say that Raven Ridge will have a 1024 core Vega GPU, this may be where AMD is getting the large performance increase from (the core increase as well as newer architecture). On the other hand, the 40% number could suggest Ryzen Mobile will not have twice the GPU cores. I would guess that 1024 might be possible, but running at lower clocks and that is where the discrepancy is. I will admit I am a bit skeptical about the 1024 (16 CU) number though because that is a huge jump... I guess we will see though!
Further, I am curious if Ryzen Mobile will use HBC (high bandwidth cache) and if HBM2 does turn out to be utilized how that will play into the HBC and whether or not we will finally see the fruits of AMD's HSA labors! I think we will see most systems use DDR4, but certainly some SKUs could use HBM2 and that would definitely open up a lot of performance possibilities on mobile!
There is still a lot that we do not know, but Ryzen Mobile is coming and AMD is making big promises that I hope it delivers on. The company is aiming the new chips at a wide swath of the mobile market from budget laptops and tablets to convertibles and even has their sights set on premium thin and lights. The mobile space is one where AMD has struggled with in getting design wins even when they had good parts for that type of system. They will really need to push and hit Ryzen Mobile out of the park to make inroads into the laptop, tablet, and ultrabook markets!
AMD plans to launch the consumer version of Ryzen Mobile in the second half of this year (presumably with systems featuring the new APUs out in time for the holidays if not for the back to school end of summer rush). The commercial SKUs (which I think refers to the Ryzen equivalent of AMD Pro series APUs.Update: Mobile Ryzen Pro) will follow in the first half of 2018.
What are your thoughts on Ryzen Mobile and the alleged performance and power characteristics? Do you think the rumors are looking more or less correct?
- Zen and the Art of CPU Design
- AMD Launching Ryzen 5 Six Core Processors Soon (Q2 2017)
- AMD Vega GPU Architecture Preview: Redesigned Memory Architecture
- The AMD Ryzen 7 1800X Review: Now and Zen
- More Ryzen coverage!
What Makes Ryzen Tick
We have been exposed to details about the Zen architecture for the past several Hot Chips conventions as well as other points of information directly from AMD. Zen was a clean sheet design that borrowed some of the best features from the Bulldozer and Jaguar architectures, as well as integrating many new ideas that had not been executed in AMD processors before. The fusion of ideas from higher performance cores, lower power cores, and experience gained in APU/GPU design have all come together in a very impressive package that is the Ryzen CPU.
It is well known that AMD brought back Jim Keller to head the CPU group after the slow downward spiral that AMD entered in CPU design. While the Athlon 64 was a tremendous part for the time, the subsequent CPUs being offered by the company did not retain that leadership position. The original Phenom had problems right off the bat and could not compete well with Intel’s latest dual and quad cores. The Phenom II shored up their position a bit, but in the end could not keep pace with the products that Intel continued to introduce with their newly minted “tic-toc” cycle. Bulldozer had issues out of the gate and did not have performance numbers that were significantly greater than the previous generation “Thuban” 6 core Phenom II product, much less the latest Intel Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge products that it would compete with.
AMD attempted to stop the bleeding by iterating and evolving the Bulldozer architecture with Piledriver, Steamroller, and Excavator. The final products based on this design arc seemed to do fine for the markets they were aimed at, but certainly did not regain any marketshare with AMD’s shrinking desktop numbers. No matter what AMD did, the base architecture just could not overcome some of the basic properties that impeded strong IPC performance.
The primary goal of this new architecture is to increase IPC to a level consistent to what Intel has to offer. AMD aimed to increase IPC per clock by at least 40% over the previous Excavator core. This is a pretty aggressive goal considering where AMD was with the Bulldozer architecture that was focused on good multi-threaded performance and high clock speeds. AMD claims that it has in fact increased IPC by an impressive 54% from the previous Excavator based core. Not only has AMD seemingly hit its performance goals, but it exceeded them. AMD also plans on using the Zen architecture to power products from mobile products to the highest TDP parts offered.
The Zen Core
The basis for Ryzen are the CCX modules. These modules contain four Zen cores along with 8 MB of shared L3 cache. Each core has 64 KB of L1 I-cache and 32 KB of D-cache. There is a total of 512 KB of L2 cache. These caches are inclusive. The L3 cache acts as a victim cache which partially copies what is in L1 and L2 caches. AMD has improved the performance of their caches to a very large degree as compared to previous architectures. The arrangement here allows the individual cores to quickly snoop any changes in the caches of the others for shared workloads. So if a cache line is changed on one core, other cores requiring that data can quickly snoop into the shared L3 and read it. Doing this allows the CPU doing the actual work to not be interrupted by cache read requests from other cores.
Each core can handle two threads, but unlike Bulldozer has a single integer core. Bulldozer modules featured two integer units and a shared FPU/SIMD. Zen gets rid of CMT for good and we have a single integer and FPU units for each core. The core can address two threads by utilizing AMD’s version of SMT (symmetric multi-threading). There is a primary thread that gets higher priority while the second thread has to wait until resources are freed up. This works far better in the real world than in how I explained it as resources are constantly being shuffled about and the primary thread will not monopolize all resources within the core.
Subject: Processors | September 19, 2016 - 10:35 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Socket AM4, processor, FX, cpu, APU, amd, 1331 pins
Image credit: Bit-Tech via HWSW
AMD's newest socket will merge the APU and FX series CPUs into this new AM4 socket, unlike the previous generation which split the two between AM3+ and FM2+. This is great news for system builders, who now have the option of starting with an inexpensive CPU/APU, and upgrading to a more powerful FX processor later on - with the same motherboard.
The new socket will apparently require a new cooler design, which is contrary to early reports (yes, we got it wrong, too) that the AM4 socket would be compatible with existing AM3 cooler mounts (manufacturers could of course offer hardware kits for existing cooler designs). In any case, AMD's new socket takes more of the delicate copper pins you love to try not to bend!
Clean Sheet and New Focus
It is no secret that AMD has been struggling for some time. The company has had success through the years, but it seems that the last decade has been somewhat bleak in terms of competitive advantages. The company has certainly made an impact in throughout the decades with their 486 products, K6, the original Athlon, and the industry changing Athlon 64. Since that time we have had a couple of bright spots with the Phenom II being far more competitive than expected, and the introduction of very solid graphics performance in their APUs.
Sadly for AMD their investment in the “Bulldozer” architecture was misplaced for where the industry was heading. While we certainly see far more software support for multi-threaded CPUs, IPC is still extremely important for most workloads. The original Bulldozer was somewhat rushed to market and was not fully optimized, while the “Piledriver” based Vishera products fixed many of these issues we have not seen the non-APU products updated to the latest Steamroller and Excavator architectures. The non-APU desktop market has been served for the past four years with 32nm PD-SOI based parts that utilize a rebranded chipset base that has not changed since 2010.
Four years ago AMD decided to change course entirely with their desktop and server CPUs. Instead of evolving the “Bulldozer” style architecture featuring CMT (Core Multi-Threading) they were going to do a clean sheet design that focused on efficiency, IPC, and scalability. While Bulldozer certainly could scale the thread count fairly effectively, the overall performance targets and clockspeeds needed to compete with Intel were just not feasible considering the challenges of process technology. AMD brought back Jim Keller to lead this effort, an industry veteran with a huge amount of experience across multiple architectures. Zen was born.
Hot Chips 28
This year’s Hot Chips is the first deep dive that we have received about the features of the Zen architecture. Mike Clark is taking us through all of the changes and advances that we can expect with the upcoming Zen products.
Zen is a clean sheet design that borrows very little from previous architectures. This is not to say that concepts that worked well in previous architectures were not revisited and optimized, but the overall floorplan has changed dramatically from what we have seen in the past. AMD did not stand still with their Bulldozer products, and the latest Excavator core does improve upon the power consumption and performance of the original. This evolution was simply not enough considering market pressures and Intel’s steady improvement of their core architecture year upon year. Zen was designed to significantly improve IPC and AMD claims that this product has a whopping 40% increase in IPC (instructions per clock) from the latest Excavator core.
AMD also has focused on scaling the Zen architecture from low power envelopes up to server level TDPs. The company looks to have pushed down the top end power envelope of Zen from the 125+ watts of Bulldozer/Vishera into the more acceptable 95 to 100 watt range. This also has allowed them to scale Zen down to the 15 to 25 watt TDP levels without sacrificing performance or overall efficiency. Most architectures have sweet spots where they tend to perform best. Vishera for example could scale nicely from 95 to 220 watts, but the design did not translate well into sub-65 watt envelopes. Excavator based “Carrizo” products on the other hand could scale from 15 watts to 65 watts without real problems, but became terribly inefficient above 65 watts with increased clockspeeds. Zen looks to address these differences by being able to scale from sub-25 watt TDPs up to 95 or 100. In theory this should allow AMD to simplify their product stack by offering a common architecture across multiple platforms.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | June 29, 2016 - 07:27 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: RX 490, radeon, processors, Polaris, graphics card, Bristol Ridge, APU, amd, A12-9800
AMD's current "We're in the Game" promotion offers a glimpse at upcoming product names, including the Radeon RX 490 graphics card, and the new Bristol Ridge APUs.
Visit AMD's gaming promo page and click the link to "check eligibility" to see the following list of products, which includes the new product names:
It seems safe to assume that the new products listed - including the Radeon RX 490 - are close to release, though details on the high-end Polaris GPU are not mentioned. We do have details on the upcoming Bristol Ridge products, with this in-depth preview from Josh published back in April. The A12-9800 and A12-9800E are said to be the flagship products in this new 7th-gen lineup, so there will be new desktop parts with improved graphics soon.
Bristol Ridge Takes on Mobile: E2 Through FX
It is no secret that AMD has faced an uphill battle since the release of the original Core 2 processors from Intel. While stayed mostly competitive through the Phenom II years, they hit some major performance issues when moving to the Bulldozer architecture. While on paper the idea of Chip Multi-Threading sounded fantastic, AMD was never able to get the per thread performance up to expectations. While their CPUs performed well in heavily multi-threaded applications, they just were never seen in as positive of a light as the competing Intel products.
The other part of the performance equation that has hammered AMD is the lack of a new process node that would allow it to more adequately compete with Intel. When AMD was at 32 nm PD-SOI, Intel had introduced its 22nm TriGate/FinFET. AMD then transitioned to a 28nm HKMG planar process that was more size optimized than 32nm, but did not drastically improve upon power and transistor switching performance.
So AMD had a double whammy on their hands with an underperforming architecture and limitted to no access to advanced process nodes that would actually improve their power and speed situation. They could not force their foundry partners to spend billions on a crash course in FinFET technology to bring that to market faster, so they had to iterate and innovate on their designs.
Bristol Ridge is the fruit of that particular labor. It is also the end point to the architecture that was introduced with Bulldozer way back in 2011.
Lower Power, Same Performance
AMD is in a strange position in that there is a lot of excitement about their upcoming Zen architecture, but we are still many months away from that introduction. AMD obviously needs to keep the dollars flowing in, and part of that means that we get refreshes now and then of current products. The “Kaveri” products that have been powering the latest APUs from AMD have received one of those refreshes. AMD has done some redesigning of the chip and tweaked the process technology used to manufacture them. The resulting product is the “Godavari” refresh that offers slightly higher clockspeeds as well as better overall power efficiency as compared to the previous “Kaveri” products.
One of the first refreshes was the A8-7670K that hit the ground in November of 2015. This is a slightly cut down part that features 6 GPU compute units vs. the 8 that a fully enabled Godavari chip has. This continues to be a FM2+ based chip with a 95 watt TDP. The clockspeed of this part goes from 3.6 GHz to 3.9 GHz. The GPU portion runs at the same 757 MHz that the original A10-7850K ran at. It is interesting to note that it is still a 95 watt TDP part with essentially the same clockspeeds as the 7850K, but with two fewer GPU compute units.
The other product being covered here is a bit more interesting. The A10-7860K looks to be a larger improvement from the previous 7850K in terms of power and performance. It shares the same CPU clockspeed range as the 7850K (3.6 GHz to 3.9 GHz), but improves upon the GPU clockspeed by hitting around 800 MHz. At first this seems underwhelming until we realize that AMD has lowered the TDP from 95 watts down to 65 watts. Less power consumed and less heat produced for the same performance from the CPU side and improved performance from the GPU seems like a nice advance.
AMD continues to utilize GLOBALFOUNDRIES 28 nm Bulk/HKMG process for their latest APUs and will continue to do so until Zen is released late this year. This is not the same 28 nm process that we were introduced to over four years ago. Over that time improvements have been made to improve yields and bins, as well as optimize power and clockspeed. GF also can adjust the process on a per batch basis to improve certain aspects of a design (higher speed, more leakage, lower power, etc.). They cannot produce miracles though. Do not expect 22 nm FinFET performance or density with these latest AMD products. Those kinds of improvements will show up with Samsung/GF’s 14nm LPP and TSMC’s 16nm FF+ lines. While AMD will be introducing GPUs on 14nm LPP this summer, the Zen launch in late 2016 will be the first AMD CPU to utilize that advanced process.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | April 19, 2016 - 11:21 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: sony, ps4, Playstation, neo, giant bomb, APU, amd
Based on a new report coming from Giant Bomb, Sony is set to release a new console this year with upgraded processing power and a focus on 4K capabilities, code named NEO. We have been hearing for several weeks that both Microsoft and Sony were planning partial generation upgrades but it appears that details for Sony's update have started leaking out in greater detail, if you believe the reports.
Giant Bomb isn't known for tossing around speculation and tends to only report details it can safely confirm. Austin Walker says "multiple sources have confirmed for us details of the project, which is internally referred to as the NEO."
The current PlayStation 4 APU
Image source: iFixIt.com
There are plenty of interesting details in the story, including Sony's determination to not split the user base with multiple consoles by forcing developers to have a mode for the "base" PS4 and one for NEO. But most interesting to us is the possible hardware upgrade.
The NEO will feature a higher clock speed than the original PS4, an improved GPU, and higher bandwidth on the memory. The documents we've received note that the HDD in the NEO is the same as that in the original PlayStation 4, but it's not clear if that means in terms of capacity or connection speed.
Games running in NEO mode will be able to use the hardware upgrades (and an additional 512 MiB in the memory budget) to offer increased and more stable frame rate and higher visual fidelity, at least when those games run at 1080p on HDTVs. The NEO will also support 4K image output, but games themselves are not required to be 4K native.
Giant Bomb even has details on the architectural changes.
|Shipping PS4||PS4 "NEO"|
|CPU||8 Jaguar Cores @ 1.6 GHz||8 Jaguar Cores @ 2.1 GHz|
|GPU||AMD GCN, 18 CUs @ 800 MHz||AMD GCN+, 36 CUs @ 911 MHz|
|Stream Processors||1152 SPs ~ HD 7870 equiv.||2304 SPs ~ R9 390 equiv.|
|Memory||8GB GDDR5 @ 176 GB/s||8GB GDDR5 @ 218 GB/s|
(We actually did a full video teardown of the PS4 on launch day!)
If the Compute Unit count is right from the GB report, then the PS4 NEO system will have 2,304 stream processors running at 911 MHz, giving it performance nearing that of a consumer Radeon R9 390 graphics card. The R9 390 has 2,560 SPs running at around 1.0 GHz, so while the NEO would be slower, it would be a substantial upgrade over the current PS4 hardware and the Xbox One. Memory bandwidth on NEO is still much lower than a desktop add-in card (218 GB/s vs 384 GB/s).
Could Sony's NEO platform rival the R9 390?
If the NEO hardware is based on Grenada / Hawaii GPU design, there are some interesting questions to ask. With the push into 4K that we expect with the upgraded PlayStation, it would be painful if the GPU didn't natively support HDMI 2.0 (4K @ 60 Hz). With the modularity of current semi-custom APU designs it is likely that AMD could swap out the display controller on NEO with one that can support HDMI 2.0 even though no consumer shipping graphics cards in the 300-series does so.
It is also POSSIBLE that NEO is based on the upcoming AMD Polaris GPU architecture, which supports HDR and HDMI 2.0 natively. That would be a much more impressive feat for both Sony and AMD, as we have yet to see Polaris released in any consumer GPU. Couple that with the variables of 14/16nm FinFET process production and you have a complicated production pipe that would need significant monitoring. It would potentially lower cost on the build side and lower power consumption for the NEO device, but I would be surprised if Sony wanted to take a chance on the first generation of tech from AMD / Samsung / Global Foundries.
However, if you look at recent rumors swirling about the June announcement of the Radeon R9 480 using the Polaris architecture, it is said to have 2,304 stream processors, perfectly matching the NEO specs above.
New features of the AMD Polaris architecture due this summer
There is a lot Sony and game developers could do with roughly twice the GPU compute capability on a console like NEO. This could make the PlayStation VR a much more comparable platform to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive though the necessity to work with the original PS4 platform might hinder the upgrade path.
The other obvious use is to upgrade the image quality and/or rendering resolution of current games and games in development or just to improve the frame rate, an area that many current generation consoles seem to have been slipping on.
In the documents we’ve received, Sony offers suggestions for reaching 4K/UltraHD resolutions for NEO mode game builds, but they're also giving developers a degree of freedom with how to approach this. 4K TV owners should expect the NEO to upscale games to fit the format, but one place Sony is unwilling to bend is on frame rate. Throughout the documents, Sony repeatedly reminds developers that the frame rate of games in NEO Mode must meet or exceed the frame rate of the game on the original PS4 system.
There is still plenty to read in the Giant Bomb report, and I suggest you head over and do so. If you thought the summer was going to be interesting solely because of new GPU releases from AMD and NVIDIA, it appears that Sony and Microsoft have their own agenda as well.